The ideal type as an instrument of sociological research
The expression « ideal type » is part of the vocabulary currently used in sociology. These terms are however highly ambiguous. The recurring debates on this issue have not only had an impact on the signification and the methodological consequence of the notion, but also on its origin. The latter is most often situated within German intellectual tradition but it also appears in Durkheimian-inspired sociology. The ideal type is linked sometimes to a conceptualizing process belonging to social sciences, sometimes, to the will for a selective reduction of complexity, and sometimes, to a particular method. In fact, the ideal type is a model. In practice, however, when carrying out field research, the distinction between ideal type and average type often becomes blurred. Yet, if the ideal type was brought back to mean synthesis of observation facts, it would be the raison d’être of the concept which would fall under compromise.