Max Weber created the "ideal type" as a conceptual tool to measure similarities and differences in specific cases, and accentuate typical courses of conduct taken by groups. Weber did not intend the ideal type to correspond directly with the happenings of the real world; it is an abstraction which serves as a guide. Weber presents three groupings of ideal types; those rooted in historical cases, those which involve abstract elements of social reality, and those which rationally reconstruct types of behaviour.

Weber’s ideal type of historical particularities would include such concepts as the Protestant work ethic, and modern capitalism. His ideal type "abstract elements of social reality" includes analysis of feudalism, and bureaucracy. The ideal type of rationally reconstructed behaviours would include the theories of economics.

In an analysis of forms of public administration, the Weberian ideal type of bureaucracy is generally seen as the most effective model despite the numerous faults which plague it. Weber himself was aware of this, and feared that his ideal type, taken to its logical end, would lead to an entirely bureaucratized world (see bureaupathology).