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Theoretical Perspectives as Ideal-types: Typologies as Means not Ends

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In this paper I question the tendency within some feminist circles to criticise attempts to develop typologies that delineate different feminist theoretical perspectives. I agree that many of the criticisms are valid, but only if typologies are viewed in a particular way. This particular way is when typologies are regarded as ahistorical, all-encompassing entities containing discrete categories that are designed for the once and for all fixing of individuals and their work in one box. Reading Max Weber through Karl Mannheim's work on the sociology of knowledge, I argue that typologies, as ideal-types, are indispensable, socially situated practical tools for measuring similarities, differences and developments in thought within and across time and space. Despite being noted as an “attractive” argument by at least some of those who are otherwise critical of typologies (for example, Liz Stanley and Sue Wise), I believe that the “attractiveness” of this particular position has not been granted serious consideration.
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Keywords: Feminist Theory; Ideal-types; Representation; Sociology of Knowledge

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-04-01

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