Normal type (in German: ''Normaltyp'') is a
typological Typology is the study of types or the systematic classification of the types of something according to their common characteristics. Typology is the act of finding, counting and classification facts with the help of eyes, other senses and logic. Ty ...
term in sociology coined by the German sociologist
Ferdinand Tönnies Ferdinand Tönnies (; 26 July 1855 – 9 April 1936) was a German sociologist, economist, and philosopher. He was a significant contributor to sociological theory and field studies, best known for distinguishing between two types of social gro ...
(1855–1936). It can be considered both as a forerunner of, and a challenge to, the rather better known concept of Max Weber’s: the ideal type (in German ''Idealtyp'').

Tönnies’ distinctions

Tönnies drew a sharp line between the realm of conceptualization (of sociological terms, including ‘normal types’) and the realm of reality (of social action). The first must be treated axiomatically and in a deductive way (pure sociology); the second, empirically and in an inductive way (applied sociology). Following Tönnies, reality (the second realm) cannot be explained without concepts, which belong to the first realm, or else you will fail because you try to define x by something derived from x. Tönnies’ ''Normaltyp'' was thus a conceptual tool created on a logical basis, an almost mathematical concept always open to subsequent refinement from a confrontation with the empirical evidence. The contrast with Weber’s ‘ideal type’ came from the latter’s ‘accentuation’ of certain elements of a real social process, which is under sociological (or historical) scrutiny - “the one-sided accentuation of one or more points of view ... of a great many diffuse, discrete, more or less present and occasionally absent ''concrete individual'' phenomena”, as Weber himself put it.Quoted in Alfred Schutz, ''The Phenomenology of the Social World'' (1997) p. 243 From Tönnies’ point of view, an ideal type cannot ''explain'' reality, because it is derived from reality by accentuation, but might help to ''understand'' reality. The normal type moved from abstract to concrete; the ideal type from concrete to abstract.

Weber's survival

Nevertheless, Weber’s term survived in the sociological community, since his ''Idealtyp'' helped to understand social forces, and for him sociology had both to ''explain'' and to ''understand'' things – a daring combination, but successful in the eyes of many sociologists.

See also

Georg Simmel Georg Simmel (; ; 1 March 1858 – 26 September 1918) was a German sociologist, philosopher, and critic. Simmel was influential in the field of sociology. Simmel was one of the first generation of German sociologists: his neo-Kantian approach ...
* Structure and agency


External links

Ferdinand Tonnies
{{DEFAULTSORT:Normal Type Sociological terminology