The Problem of Social Type:
A Review


Oz Almog Department of Sociology Emek Jeezrael College

[email protected]

About The Author: Dr. Oz Almog is a lecturer in Sociology at the Emek Jeezrael College in Israel. He specializes in Israeli Popular Culture, the Cultural History of  Israeli Society and Semiological analysis. His book Sabra: The Creation of the New Jew will be published in 1999 by The University of California Press, Berkeley.
Contact is welcome: Phone (972) (4) 9841329; Fax: (972) (4) 9840466


This paper elaborates the various scientific problems and difficulties regarding the notion of social type in the social sciences, particularly in sociology. An extensive body of literature on this topic is reviewed, and numerous ambiguous and vague points associated with this concept are identified. Some conceptual clarification and resolution is proposed to articulate the precise difference between social type and the concept of role. A typology of four major mechanisms or sources from which social types may emerge and be identified by sociologists is presented: occupational, psychological (inborn traits), cultural/subcultural, and mythological. Each source/mechanism forms a different, or slightly different, type of social type.

Finally, five basic steps toward social type analysis are proposed. These five steps may provide some insight into the rewards and complexities of social type methodology. In conclusion, the author points out the current unfortunate reality in which sociological research into social types is not at its peak and predicts that the old tradition of social types research and analysis will be renewed.

Occasionally we may observe a stranger in the street or an actor on the screen, and find ourselves thinking, perhaps with a grin, “he’s surely a type!” The concept of “type” in such a context usually conveys two alternative meanings. The first meaning implies that this is a unique person, one of a kind, a colorful individual whose special traits arouse curiosity. The second meaning suggests that this person can be recognized as a typical example of a familiar group or social category and reminds us of other individuals with similar values, behavior, style, and habits. We see this person as a mold of sorts and tend to catalogue him. Since my concern here is sociology, I will deal with the second meaning of “type.”

What actually happens when we perceive a person as a mold is a common intuitive process. The brain simultaneously absorbs a conglomerate of symbols such as hairstyle, attire, mannerism, and accent projected by the image of the individual and then relat es them to known symbols typical of certain people that have already been catalogued by the brain. Alfred Schutz defines this process in his classical essay on typification: “In the typifying synthesis of recognition I perform an act of anonymization in w hich I abstract the lived experience from its setting within the stream of consciousness and thereby render it impersonal” (Schutz 1967, 186). This process may take place when we encounter familiar types, such as the New York yuppie 1 or the London cockney. We usually spontaneously identify social types such as the yuppie without troubling ourselves with the question of what in fact makes the yuppie a yuppie. Were we to dwell on this question, we would soon realize that the answer is not as simple as it might at first seem to be. Indeed, the more we ponder the puzzle of why the yuppie behaves and thinks in his or her special way, the more complex the issue becomes, composed as it is of cultural parts, for social types are pr oducts of a socialization process.

Yet, surprisingly, only a very small number of social scientists have taken up the intellectual challenge of attempting to solve such puzzles by investigating the essence and origin of the phenomenon of social types as reflections of different cultures . “Those who have enthusiastically taken up the challenge,” as Eugene and Anita Weiner pointed out, “have been historians, philosophers and literary critics, but their perspective does not generally include sociological concerns” (Weiner and Weiner 1990, 28). Furthermore, few sociologists and anthropologists have made any effort to define the concept of social type or to develop empirical and theoretical tools with which to analyze it.2 The aim of the present article is to clarify the meaning of the concept “social type” and to emphasize its significance for understanding disparate cultures. To this end, a definition of social type is proposed, a typology of different kinds of social types is presented, and a general methodological scheme of research and analysis is elaborated.

Ambiguity in the Meaning of Social Type.

A review of extant anthropological and sociological literature that either includes the term social type or touches upon a particular social type, often even without relating to it as such, reveals various and sometimes contradictory interpretations and meanings.3

Orrin Klapp (1949, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1964), who has written on the subject of social types more than any other researcher, employs two different interpretations. In his first interpretation, social types are perceived as legendary characters (Klapp 194 9, 1956), popular images molded by the collective imagination. In his essay “The Fool as a Social-Type,” Klapp describes the concept of social type as “a collective concept of person or conduct . . . found widely in folklore, literature and drama” (Klapp 1949, 157).

Klapp’s second interpretation, unlike his first, relates social types to real people. He defines social types as “. . . consensual concepts of roles that have not been fully codified and rationalized, which help us find our way about in the social syst em. . . . they are a chart to rolestructure otherwise largely invisible and submerged” (Klapp 1958, 674).

Note that in this second definition, the concept of social type is presented not as a scientific tool for social categorization but as a spontaneous means of labeling used by society. In Klapp’s view, social types constitute informal consensual concept s of role that help us orient ourselves in the social system. As Klapp puts it, “Between knowing a person’s formal status only and knowing him intimately there is a kind of knowledge that ‘fills in’. . . . This information can be quickly transmitted and s erved to orient a person, say a loan-seeker, more effectively in the social structure. The social type is his substitute for really knowing the person he deals with and often not a poor substitute” (Klapp 1958, 674). Klapp’s definition of social type is v ery similar to the concept of “status images” proposed by Goffman (1959) and may, in this respect, be slightly confusing.

Booth and Blair’s (1989) notion of social types is similar to Klapp’s second interpretation. They, however, define social types not as a “chart to role-structure” (Klapp 1958, 674), i.e., not as special characters with a social function, but simply as “unconventional roles in a sociocultural system (i.e., those not defined in terms of major social institutions but well known in everyday life)” (Booth and Blair 1989, 236). Their examples of such social types include playboys, hippies, street people, and highbrows.

Taub and Leger (1984), following in Klapp’s footsteps, also interpret social type as a spontaneous social classification rather than the formulation of a researcher. However, they attribute the identification of social types to specific small groups wi thin society rather than to the general public as a whole. In their study of a young gay community, Taub and Leger employ the term social type to describe characteristics attributed by the gay group itself to its own members. Their conception of social ty pe is synonymous with that of Samuel Strong (1943, 1946), one of the most important intellectual figures in this field. Strong investigated “the social types which the members of a group refer to and recognize in their everyday language” (Strong 1943, 563 ). He describes social types as “constructs which the group arrives at by selecting or abstracting accentuated forms of conduct displayed by some of its members and having specific connotations in terms of the interests, concerns, and dispositions of the group” (563). Strong uses the concept social type in his study of race relations between whites and Afro-Americans in Chicago. Social type labels were found to reflect the nature of those relations, and racial pride was said to be a reaction to the minori ty status.

Wirth (1968) brings an additional component to Strong’s definition in his treatment of social types, that of a person’s attitude toward himself and the group. “Social type,” according to Wirth, “consists of a set of attitudes on the part of the person toward himself and the group and a corresponding set of attitudes of the group toward him, which together determine the role of the person in his social milieu” (Wirth 1968, 106).

Klapp’s interpretations of social type tend to be somewhat functionalist. As common in sociology and anthropology, however, the same concept may yield different and sometimes opposite interpretations. Two sociologists, Glick (1955) and Kinloch (1972), prefer to view the concept of social type through the prism of conflict. They conceive of social types not just as a spontaneous social classification on the part of the public but as a stereotyping label aimed at excluding certain classes or races. Glick defines social types as “social constructs or creation inside the group. . . . A process of categorizing and labeling commonly occurs, with the result that persons making certain type-responses, often carried out in an accentuated manner, come to be ‘typ ed’ by being associated with a particular label” (Glick 1955, 241). Kinloch (1972) similarly equates the concept of social types with the different labels (“Native,” “Black,” “African”) attached by whites to non-whites in Rhodesia.

Unlike the aforementioned researchers, Reading (1977) believes that social types are defined not from within (by society) but rather from without (by sociologists).4 Social type, in his view, is “an objectively derived s ummary description of the characteristics of a category of persons” (Reading 1977, 196). The same approach (i.e., social types as sociological typology) is reflected by Becker in his 1976 classification of the artists who make up the art world into four e mpirically recognizable social types.

Georg Simmel was the first to stress the importance of social type analysis in macro-social understanding. Nonetheless, he failed to provide a full definition of the term, although one might deduce his interpretation of social type from his classic ess ays on “the stranger” (Simmel 1950),5 “the poor” (Simmel 1965), “the miser,” “the spendthrift” (Simmel 1971), and “the metropolitan type” (Simmel 1964). It would seem that Simmel views social type as a composite of certain psychological traits-as a specific personality, temperament, or mentality formed by structural forces (for example, the traders in Europe as a profession or the Jews as people), human situations, and ecological conditions (for example, the metropolitan ty pe).

Along the same lines and with the same conceptualization of social types, Park (1928) in his well known essay described the “marginal man” type as “a Personality type with characteristic form of behavior” (Park 1928, 881). 6

An opposing view is offered by Burgess (1968), who maintains that the term social type “does not refer to the mechanisms of personality reactions but to attitudes, values, and philosophy of life derived from copies presented by society. The role which a person assumes and to which he is assigned by society creates the social type” (Burgess 1968, 193-194). Burgess hypothesizes that “personality patterns, since they are fixed in infancy and in early childhood, are likewise susceptible to reconditioning o nly in this same period. The conditioning of social types takes place in later experiences and may accordingly be reconditioned in youth and maturity” (Burgess 1968, 194). Hence, “the so-called permutations of personality are the abrupt and often revoluti onary changes in social type, not in basic personality patterns” ( 194). A similar approach, i.e., perceiving social type as “a constellation of attitudes forming a personality pattern, not inherited, but growing out of a social situation,” is taken by Zo rbaugh (1968, 98).

Coser (1974) assigns one chapter of his book to a collection of classical essays on different social types, describing these types as “some salient characteristics of individuals who have a distinct position in society and are hence motivated to adopt a special kind of role behavior” (Coser 1974, 232). While Coser’s interpretation of social types is somewhat vague since he does not spell out what the “distinct position” might be, it would seem to be a cross between that of Klapp and that of Simmel. On the one hand, Coser perceives of social type as a sociological formulation of certain types of social behavior; on the other hand, he sees social type as a folkloric image playing a functional role in society. According to Coser, “It [the social type] is tuned with ‘common sense’ notions about society” (Coser 1974, 232).

In light of all the divergent, often outright contradictory, definitions of the social type concept, it is not surprising that most introductory sociology or anthropology text books exclude the term “social type” from their lexicon, 7 an exclusion most symptomatic of the current status of the concept of social type in modern sociology and anthropology.

After classifying the various definitions hereby presented, it seems that the epistemological status of the concept of social type may be divided into two major orientations: first, as a tool everyone uses on a daily basis (a “folk notion,” in other wo rds) and second, as an analytical tool for the social scientist. This distinction is synonymous with Pierre Bourdieu’s distinction between “empirical individuals” and “epistemic individuals” (Bourdieu 1984). For scientific reasons, I prefer the “epistemic ” notion of social type, that is, the challenge of isolating the “molecules” of social tissue. Nevertheless, the scientist can and should be assisted by folk notions as well. I therefore define social type as a human prototype-a sociological summary of th e typical characteristics of a particular group or of a category of human beings usually recognized and typed by the public and often granted a nickname. This group or category may be a secondary group, a community, a profession, a subculture, a status gr oup, a class or a generation unit8 that is characterized by its look (physical, fashionable or both), life style and philosophy, pattern of interaction (particularly linguistic), attitudes and certain psychological traits.< /p>

Three points ought to be stressed regarding the proposed definition. First of all, we seek similarities within the group or category characterized by the social type, not perfect homogeneity. Since the subjects of sociological research are not molecule s but rather human beings who can never be identical to one another, the concept of social type comprises a number of dominant social features common to certain types of human beings but does not define a complete unique personality. I do not claim that a person who conforms to the mores of a particular group or fits a specific social category has no unique personal preferences or individual interpretations of reality. Rather, I contend that the social mark of his or her group or category is recognizable in certain patterns of behavior and ways of thinking. It is these very behavioral and thinking patterns that make the members of a group or category resemble one another and distinguish them as a whole from others. Needless to say, this model of social ty pe ought to characterize the majority of group members, not the exceptions or the marginal cases.

The second point to be emphasized in the proposed definition is the use of the term “typical features.” It should not be assumed that each individual member of the majority must possess all the typical features displayed by the social type. Our social type will serve only as a model for analyzing the characteristic features of a particular type of individual. The social type will thus be the perfect specimen of his or her cultural group or the prototype of particular human behavior and thinking. Behind the concept of the prototype-occasionally referred to in sociological literature as Max Weber’s “Ideal Type”9 -is, as indicated by Mitchell, the belief that “social phenomena, in virtue of their manifold and fluid nature, can be analyzed solely in terms of the extreme forms of their characteristics, which can never be observed in their purity” (Mitchell 1979, 164). Thus, it is possible to identify and describe a social type without ever finding a single living soul who pos sesses the full range of features typical of the social type model. Social type is an analytical concept, an abstract depiction constructed from a number of real cases in order to reveal their essential and common features. While it might be possible to i dentify an individual who closely approximates the analytical model of his or her social type, this is not a condition for the theoretical portrayal of the social type model.

A theoretical difficulty may arise in determining how many features of the social type model would be sufficient for a person to fit the model. In other words, if an individual possesses only a few of the features displayed by the social type model (as is usually the case) and is still considered anthropologically and culturally to be a member of his social type, what would be the minimum number of required features that qualify him or her to fit the social type label? How many yuppie features, for exa mple, must a person exhibit in order to be labeled a yuppie by sociologists or by the public? The problem is not only quantitative; there may also be a qualitative difference in the importance of the individual traits that make up the unique personality o f a social type.

In the absence of any other discriminating tool, the answer may lie in intuition and common sense. Sociologists could enlist the help of people who more often than not intuitively classify and identify social types (educators, artists, journalists, com edians). Alternatively, they might employ the definitions provided by the group members themselves, as Strong did (1943, 1946), in order to identify the most essential features of any given social type. A scale could be constructed, based on information o btained from a small group or a sampling of the particular social type, to indicate the relative proportion of people possessing the features of the model. Such a scale would help determine the relative importance of various features to the group itself a nd, accordingly, rank the features in the social type model. The dominant values and ideals of the social type could also be determined through systematic observation of behavioral patterns and face-to-face interviews, and a scale of feature-importance co uld be based on the findings.

The third and last point to be stressed is that there is a basic difference between the concept of social type and that of stereotype. Social categorization often exaggerates similarities within groups and differences between groups, and hence it forms the basis for stereotyping. Often, a host of popular images, not necessarily in tune with reality, are attached to the public image of a particular social type. “Shylock” as the image of the Jew is a case in point. As Klapp points out, “a stereotype is o ften, if not generally, viewed as an inaccurate, rigid popular concept playing an important part in prejudice. It is not rational and interferes with insight. . . . Social-types, according to the present argument, are as realistic as most concepts used in everyday life may be expected to be; they are needed for effective participation in modern secondary society, and are characteristically applied within the system to promote insightful relations rather than to hold people at a distance or portray outside groups in an inaccurate way” (Klapp 1958, 675).

Smith’s 1974 study of the dandy presents a clear picture of the gap that may develop between the real image of a social type and the public image. According to Smith’s findings, the middle classes misjudged the dandy’s straightforward self-evaluation a s that of a waster and dubbed his behavior snobbish. The same distinction is made by Lyons (1989) concerning the yuppie. Lyons found the yuppie stereotype of a cultural liberal but an economic conservative to be false.

Sociologists must be very careful not to fall subconsciously into the trap of the stereotype when analyzing social types. The social type model must be constructed only on the basis of real features. Sociologists may well be interested in the public im age of the social type as part of the cultural construct, but they must strenuously distinguish between public image (often including stereotypical elements) and analytical generalizations.

Are Social-Type and Role-Player Synonyms?

Based on some of the above definitions of social type, the distinction between the concept of role player and that of social type remains somewhat vague. Some sociologists and anthropologists actually perceive of social types as specific cases of role- playing. Indeed, the two concepts are in many ways similar, but they are certainly not identical. The following eight distinctions between the two concepts should help clarify the precise sociological meaning of the concept of social type. My discussion w ill generally refer to roles relating to achieved status, such as occupation or education, rather than to ascribed status, such as race or gender.

1. Predetermined versus emergent phenomena: Role is defined as “a set of expected behavior patterns, obligations, and privileges attached to a particular social status” (Robertson 1987, 91). That is, role refers to the behavior expected from a s tatus-holder in an organized social situation in which the rules of behavior and action are predetermined even as they leave room for some maneuvering. The key word here is “expected”: a person is expected to learn how to behave in a specific context of t ime and place. Roles are therefore the rational organizers or “atoms” of social structure, constructed to achieve a particular goal.10 They are considered to have sociological functionality and to reflect a mechanism of exc hange (Merton 1967): “Act according to the role you are given and get the predetermined social reward to your action.” Note that this typification applies mainly to formal-organizational roles, for as we all know, some roles are nonrational, informal and emergent. Social types, on the other hand, are basically an emergent rather than a planned-in-advanced phenomenon. The hobo social type, for example, exhibits neither organizational nor rational behavior patterns and has no relationship either with predet ermined social exchange or with moral expectations (Anderson 1923). Role, then, refers more to the structure of society, that is, regulation of interactions, while social type refers more to culture, including ideas, beliefs, myths, traditions, ecological conditions, etc.

2. Uniforms versus fashion: Sociologists distinguish between two sources of social behavior, institutionalized and spontaneous, each derived from unconscious cultural socialization. Most role behavior stems from institutionalized sources, while most social type behavior arises spontaneously. A businessman, for example, is expected to be clean-shaven and tidy, as dictated by his professional role. The Sabra, on the other hand, an Israeli social type, tends to be abrasive and is characterized by h is blunt “dugry” speech, the spontaneous behavior of this particular social type (Katriel 1987). The social type subconsciously adopts various characteristics through emulation and absorption but not by conforming to definite rules. Typical traits are abs orbed through a prolonged invisible socialization process. In this sense, role may be compared to a workplace uniform prepared by an organization for its members.11 When donning this attire, the person merely adjusts it to his personal measurements in a process usually defined as “role taking.” Hence, people in the same profession resemble each other mainly because the uniforms given to them by their organization are the same. In contrast, social type may be compared to a f ashion selected by an individual according to his or her personal taste but influenced by the taste of his or her social circle, subculture or peers. Thus, individuals who fit a specific social type look alike not because of dictated institutionalized nor ms but because they have developed the same preferences in style and taste.

3. Social circle: narrow versus wide: A role-player usually behaves according to his or her role in a very specific and limited context of time and place: a teacher in a classroom, a clerk at the office, etc. On the other hand, behavior typical of a social type will be consistently manifested in many disparate social circles: at home, at the office, at the club. A social type is therefore characterized by a wider range of behavioral modes than a role-player. In addition to exhibiting certain ext ernal modes of behavior, a social type, unlike a role-player, reveals an inner world-a particular way of thinking.

4. Temporary versus constant behavior: The responsibilities and obligations attached to a role apply to a particular context of time and place; beyond that context, the specific role performance is no longer required. This “switch” often seems a lmost “miraculous,” with people spontaneously and completely changing their behavior and feelings the moment they cast off their professional uniforms or close the door to their place of employment behind them. In effect, they often switch to another role , e. g. from clerk or dentist to parent, and by so doing they become, according to Goffman, a sort of a different person (Goffman 1959). In contrast, a social type does not, or even cannot, “take off his uniform,” since his or her typical behavior has bec ome part of his or her personality. The behavior of a social type is totally internalized and imprinted upon the individual’s personality for life, or at least for a long period of time. Like a professional actor, a person can abandon his or her role for a while and reassume it later, but no one is capable of abandoning his or her personality. This distinction is emphasized by Ardity (1987), who uses the metaphor of a mask: “Marginality, miserliness, and hobbism are not masks that we wear when the situati on requires them. We are marginals or misers, and we will act accordingly irrespective of the role that we are performing at any one moment. The behavior patterns that characterize hobbism will pervade the hobo’s behavior in almost every aspect of his or her everyday life” (Ardity 1987, 571). Unenthusiastic and detached performance-called “role distance” by Goffman (1961)-is likely to be found only within role behavior but never within the behavior of the social type. While psychologists and sociologists do recognize the existence of total identification with a role, calling it “occupational mania” or “role embracement” (Goffman 1961, 106), this usually refers to individual performance within a certain social context and not to a typical phenomenon attach ed to a group, class, generation or subculture. When a number of individuals develop symptoms of “role embracement,” a social type begins to emerge. In other words, role merger may eventually produce a social type. This phenomenon, called “occupational ro le type,” will be discussed later.

5. Playing various roles versus playing a single social type: As already indicated, a role is generally short-lived. It is temporary, dynamic, and can be abandoned. In contrast, characteristic modes of behavior of a social type are more stable a nd make for a permanent personality. Hence, a person usually plays various roles but belongs to only one or two social types in his or her lifetime. As noted by Ardity, “according to the concept of social types, we live within one social reality, and this determines to a great extent what we are. The behavior that derives from it is pervasive, permanent” (Ardity 1987, 572).

6. Significant versus insignificant number of personal traits: The concepts of role and social type also differ from one another in the number of personal traits that pertain to each. Social type is associated with a more significant number of t raits. For instance, if your mental image of a New York cabby is that of a faceless being defined only by his driving, you are relating to the cab driver only in terms of his role. On the other hand, if you attach to this image a number of typical traits, such as accent, speech, and attire, you are relating to a social type.

7. Formed by a charismatic personality versus formed by organizations or social institutions: Role behavior, or at least formal role behavior, is likely to be initiated and dictated by organizations or social institutions, while social type beha vior often tends to emerge from and be formed by a charismatic personality or an exemplary primary group. As noted by Klapp, “While many roles are widely allocated and do not ‘belong’ to any particular kind of person who characteristically plays them, som e get conceptually linked with a kind of person. At this point we may speak of the role consensus as having developed into a social type” (Klapp 1958, 674). The case of the dandy emerging from the unique character of George “Beau” Brummel is a good exampl e. Brummel set a social model for the upper classes in 19th century Europe (Smith 1974). He played the role of cultural nucleus for a new social type. Smith describes him as a “conglomerate actor-a figure added up by collecting into one cross-section esse ntial dramatic scenes and their dynamics” (Smith 1974, 727).

8. Natural character versus moral character: Roles tend to be evaluated by impersonal criteria of performance, such as efficiency, achievement, and productivity. A person may make a negative evaluation of another person’s performance, but this w ould not necessarily change his general normative attitude toward the particular role. Disliking a specific teacher, for example, does not usually lead to an aversion for the teaching profession, for it is easy to differentiate between the specific teache r and his or her role. A social type, however, perceived as it is by the public as a reflection of personality, tends to be judged in a more personal way. This judgment often contains stereotypical elements and is based on a wide range of moral standards. The public also tends to attach a moral evaluation to well-known social types, members of national elitist groups.12 As noted by Klapp, “Many social types have either a heroic or a villainous, or a foolish connotation, and the person typed is treated accordingly” (Klapp 1958, 676).13

Four Possible Sources/Mechanisms for the Emergence of Social Types

In considering social types, it is intriguing to ask, “what are the mechanisms that form social types?” I propose that social types can emerge from four major mechanisms or sources: occupational, psychological (i.e., inborn traits), cultural/subcultura l, and mythological. Each of these sources/mechanisms defines a slightly different social type.

The Occupational Role Type

The first source of social type formation is occupation. The “occupational role type” is characterized by total internalization of a particular occupational role, so that the role is enacted not only in the context of the role-partner interaction but a lso in general, including private, life. An occupational role type may emerge when role-patterns “penetrate,” so to speak, the “blood stream” and become part of the personality, a phenomenon labeled by Goffman as “role embracement” (Goffman 1961, 106). Th is phenomenon has also been identified by Turner, who termed it “role-person merger” (Turner 1978). He writes: “When a role is deeply merged with the person, socialization in that role has pervasive effects on personality formation” (Turner 1978, 1). The occupational role type, therefore, often applies to individuals who do not fully acknowledge their different social circles and have not separated their individual identity from their social identity, or, as Turner puts it, “have been unable to divorce th e role from their person” (p.1). Turner formulates three criteria for identifying role-person merger which can also be used to identify occupational role types: 1) a subject continues to play a role in situations where the role no longer applies; 2) a sub ject resists abandoning a role despite the availability of advantageous, viable alternative roles; and 3) a subject maintains attitudes and beliefs that are appropriate to the role but may be out of context.

Many occupational role types have been immortalized by television and movies, e.g. the sergeant major who treats his own children as if they were soldiers, or the headmaster who corrects his friends’ grammar. We usually identify such types mainly by th eir out-of-context and often bizarre behavior. Professions that demand total immersion often produce this social type.14 Consequently, an occupational role type would tend to emerge as soon as a professional community emerg es (Goode 1957). Professions, especially informal ones, can be described and analyzed by analyzing the respective occupational role type. This sociological technique was employed by Sutherland, who led his readers into the world of the thief by vividly de scribing a person who had been engaged almost continuously, for more than twenty years, in that profession (Sutherland 1963).

“Runaway inflation” of professional costs (time and energy) along with tough competition for professional positions, particularly in the white collar fields, are assumed to have increased the number of occupational role types in modern society. Whyte ( 1957) employs the term “organization man” to describe these modern social types that have emerged from the total devotion expected by contemporary professions. These role types,15 according to Whyte, are “the ones of our mi ddle class who have left home, spiritually as well as physically, to take the vows of organization life” (Whyte 1957, 3).

Occupational role types are in many ways a reflection of a particular social structure and a particular system of values; thus, they could be considered the cultural stamp of their society. Alser (Bellah et al 1985) comments that one of the variables d ifferentiating cultures is the extent to which social role holders become social types. British culture in the Victorian era has, according to Alser, become identified in the collective memory mainly with images of the “headmaster,” the “explorer,” and th e “engineer.” German culture under Vilhelm, on the other hand, is personified by the “Prussian officer” type, the “professor” type, and the “social democrat” type.

Occupational role type behavior can emerge not only from psychological and cultural traits that evolve through the dynamics of the daily job routine but also from inborn characteristics that motivate a person to choose one occupation or another in the first place. A nun is a case in point. By the same token, members of the same profession may behave and think similarly, thus forming an occupational role type, because they have been screened to begin with by an employer or university on the basis of cre dentials and career prospects.16 For instance, jet pilots may resemble one another and develop into an occupational role type for the following two reasons. First, those who would consider a career as a pilot are usually yo ung motivated persons with high self-esteem and certain skills. Second, pilots are molded so as to meet the particular requirements of the air force organization. To be sure, it is not easy to single out the dominant factor in the formation of an occupati onal role type personality. In most cases, both predetermined characteristics linked to natural and organizational screening and post-determined characteristics resulting from a melting pot of role experience play a part in the formation of an occupationa l role type.

Occupational role types can originate not only from formal but also from informal role experience. Formally a typical truck driver may only be expected to deliver his load, yet his long drives and meetings with fellow drivers at truck stops along the r oad can eventually turn him into an occupational role type.

The Personality Type

The second source for social type formation can be found in the inborn traits and tendencies that form a typical personality. The personality type is characterized by one dominant psychological trait or by a number of traits that overshadow all others and reflect upon a person’s daily behavior and thinking.

The social need to designate people according to character and personality is universal and can be found in the writings of ancient Greeks17 and Chinese scholars. Each historical era has formulated its own human typifica tions motivated by its perceptions and values. The urge to classify people by their character has yielded various attempts to detect the factors producing different temperaments and to identify signs of different personality types. The Greeks, for example , contemplated how the balance of liquids in the human body influences human nature. The Chinese proposed Chi energy as a temperament former.

For a long time, the human body was perceived as the main source of human behavior. Many attempts to correlate between physical and psychological attributes-most of them pathetic-can be found in the history of psychology. Two of the most well-known att empts are the theory of Phrenology proposed by Frantz Josef Gall and Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) and the constitutional theories of Kretschmer (1988-1964) and Sheldon (1898-1970).

Until the advent of modern psychology, people were primarily classified according to norms, that is to say, by moral virtues (evil, brave, kind, etc.) or by character (peevish, chatterbox, melancholy, etc.). In the era of modern psychology, people bega n to be classified in terms of “permanent psychological styles” and “personalities.”

In Europe, discussion of social types had been limited to the classical “Heredity-Environment” debate. Freud and later Jung transferred the emphasis from heredity to childhood experience. Modern psychology introduced different types of tests for screen ing and classification, some still controversial, replacing ancient intuitive methods. Recent neurological research has revived the old psycho-physical link. Although these studies have only touched the edge of the iceberg regarding the relation between b ody and soul, they have opened a new perspective on psychological classification.

A personality type, then, seems likely to emerge from any one of three possible sources:

1. Internal source: The internal source for personality type consists of psychological impulses and motivations that are either inborn or formed during early stages of personality development. Naturally, most scholarly analyses of this personali ty type have been conducted not by sociologists but rather by psychologists from different schools and academic orientations.18 The vast theoretical literature on the subject of personality development and differentiation i s outside the scope of this paper. The most prominent psychological personality classifications are the Freudian distinction of sublimative type versus reactive type and the Jungian distinction between the introvert and the extrovert. While most psycholog ists consider the general process of personality formation, a few do examine particular social types. One example is Norman Dixon’s (1976) analysis of the incompetent military leader that was created by a compulsive mother; this is a universal personality type who leads armies to similar catastrophes. Dixon, like other Freudian psychologists, sees personality mainly as the outcome of the human attempt to sort out internal conflicts. According to Freudians, the individual is characterized by certain psycho logical protection mechanisms that form his or her character. For example, the inclination toward self accusation leads to a depressive character.

2. External dynamics: Often, personality type evolution is activated by external dynamics, such as the functional structure of a group, the division of labor within a group, or the labeling mechanisms of a group. The leader, the brain, th e joke-teller, the know-it-all-these are personality types characterizing many groups.19 A good example of social dynamics between group social needs and the emergence of personality type can be found in Klapp’s analysis of the fool: “Fool making is a continual social process; it is safe to say that every group must have a fool” (Klapp 1949, 157). The same functional perspective regarding personality type emergence is presented by Hoerr in his analysis of the clown’s functi on (Hoerr 1945). Viewed from this perspective, the study of personality types would lie more within the domain of sociologists than that of psychologists.

3. Zeitgeist: Zeitgeist, the cultural climate of a particular era or generation, can also be a source of an emerging personality type. Technological means of production and communication, standard of living, ecology-all these could create, or ra ther intensify, a typical personality that will respond and adapt itself to these factors. Simmel’s 1964 analysis of the metropolitan type, a creature of urban ecology and fiscal economy, as well as Anderson’s 1923 analysis of the hobo and Zorbaugh’s 1968 analysis of “the dweller in furnished rooms” (an urban type) all attempt to understand specific personality types through their ecological and cultural milieu.20 Today’s excessively ambitious workaholic may be considered a s a new personality type generated by the post-industrial era (Kanter 1977; Schaef 1988). A new political atmosphere or shifts in social stratification, whether evolutionary or revolutionary, can also produce personality types. The nouveau riche, the rebe l (Camus 1954), the convert (Snow and Machaleck 1983) and the martyr (Weiner and Weiner 1990) are but a few examples.

Note that there is no clear-cut boundary between psychological and occupational role typologies. The charismatic leader type, for example, could fall into either category, depending on whether one believes that society produces the leader or that the l eader creates the society. Similarly, the spendthrift-millionaire type, the absent-minded professor type, the fool type and the hustler type could be categorized either by their role or by their psychological traits, depending on how one considers the cau se and effect relationship between psychology and behavior.

The profile of personality type is universal in that similar behavioral modes are exhibited in disparate locations, throughout different cultures, and sometimes even during different eras. The jester, the moral leader, the clumsy guy, the square, the s issy, the fanatic, the smart alec, the miser, the narcissist, the hysteric, the wicked-they all can be classified as personality types. Indeed, a variety of personality types have been portrayed in prose, drama, comedy and sketches. The universality of Al bert Camus’ “stranger” or Moliere’s “miser” (Harpagon) as a personality types is attested to by the fact that these works have won constant popularity in different cultures and eras. We still laugh at Harpagon’s behavior and speech precisely because he re minds us of other familiar misers in our own culture.

As indicated above, classifying people into different personality types is not merely a professional pursuit of scientists, but also, as social psychology studies indicate, a very common enterprise among the general public as well. The spontaneous proc ess of classification is due to our natural instinct to “sort” the world into typical phenomena so as to understand it and our practical need to develop a quick, coherent, overall impression of a new acquaintance. People use two types of processing to hel p integrate the personality of another: first, by forming clusters of similar behaviors (Hamilton and others, 1980); and second, by searching for casual links among behaviors and traits (Prentice, 1990; Park 1986). People actually develop implicit persona lity theories (Schneider, 1973) that guide them in developing and elaborating complex impressions of others. General patterns of implicit personality theories are widely shared within a culture, but an individual may also make certain idiosyncratic trait inferences, depending on his or her own experiences (Smith and Z’arate, 1992).

We should note that people from different cultures make distinct causal associations for behavior, and that the personal characteristics emphasized by different cultures vary. (See Miller, 1984.) Hence, we may often find that personality classification s vary depending on culture. In analyzing personality types, the scientist should take this natural bias into consideration.

The Cultural/Subcultural Type

The third social type is one in which the dominant behavior is typical of the individual’s culture or subculture.21 Indeed, all social types are cultural; however, while the occupational role type entails a merger with o ccupation (mainly through formal socialization and professional expectations), the cultural type represents a merger, mainly via tradition, folklore, and informal and unconscious socialization, with the dominant culture or subculture. We could view the cu ltural type as the prototype of the particular culture whose features it reflects. Of the three social types presented thus far, this type is anthropologically the most interesting one because, by opening a small window into the world of the cultural type , we can peek into meaningful cultural phenomena. The dandy, the American Wasp, the hippie, the English country gentleman, the gypsy, the Sicilian Mafioso,22 the French farmer, the Arab sheik-these are but a few examples of the many cultural types that make our globe so colorful and diverse.

Throughout the ages, different cultural types have been depicted as protagonists of novels and plays.23 Their typical traits and values shed light, both directly and indirectly, on the cultural Zeitgeist of their era or generation. The fact that we are conversant with the multiple normative fibers in the cultural tapestry of Czarist Russia can undoubtedly to a large extent be attributed to the masterpieces of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and other great Russian noveli sts who portrayed various cultural types of that era. The same can be said about William Faulkner, Victor Hugo, Gabriel Garci’a Ma’rquez, Jerome K. Jerome, John Steinbeck and other fiction writers who actually produced ethnographic documents by virtue of their keen sociological eye. It seems as if at this point anthropology and literature cross. Through their protagonists, these writers subconsciously analyze the typical features of cultural types. The natural sociological insights of Damon Runyon or Roma in Rolland, for example, so felicitously captured the subtleties and nuances in the cultural types characteristic of their time that their authentic portrayal of their world seems to rival all systematic ethnographic sociological research on the subject.< /p>

Other “latent sociologists” who have contributed to the analysis of cultural types are people from the movie industry, mainly talented films directors and actors. Cinema and television-the world of fantasy and make-believe-have given the work of cultur al documentation and interpretation of different authentic cultural types a tremendous boost. The professional term “type casting” used in the world of television, theater and movies indicates that certain live actors-flesh and blood people-embody, or are asked to embody, the theoretical features of a given social type. The media, then, not only sets the popular style but also reflects the cultural reality of the day. Through their work, scriptwriters, actors and directors offer a wealth of cultural portr aits and provide an ample source of sociological insights. The images of Archie Bunker, the uneducated lower middle class conservative; “Zorba the Greek,” the typical Greek islander; and the yuppie heroes of the films Working Women and Sex, Lies and Videotapes, among others, constitute the media’s enormous contribution to the sociological understanding of cultural types. As a matter of fact, it would not be too farfetched to suggest that nowadays one can identify the winds of a cultural tran sition through the new cultural types appearing on the screen.

Historically, the emergence and subsequent disappearance of different cultural types may signify a cultural trend in folkways and mores (Sumner 1906). The yuppie, for example, the young, educated, middle class, sophisticated, professional urban person, is a contemporary cultural type that sprouted from the new normative springboard of an ultramodern society (Lyons 1989; Savells 1986). Good examples of cultural types as an index of cultural transition are offered by Sa’d al-Din (1982) as he analyzes six profiles of contemporary Arab social types and illustrates major facets of the new social dynamics prevailing in the Arab world.24

The emergence and disappearance of cultural types may also call for a functionalist perspective regarding the causes of this process, which could be perceived as evolutionary. As Linton suggests, every era produces new functional traits in people: “It is . . . vitally necessary to the functioning of a society that the personalities of its members be at least superficially adapted to their statuses. Each society approves and rewards certain combinations of qualities when they appear in individuals occup ying particular statuses. Furthermore, it tries to develop these qualities in all the individuals for whom the particular statuses can be forecast. In other words, each society has a series of ideal personalities which correspond to the various statuses w hich it recognizes.” (Linton 1936, 476). Klapp assumes a similar functional approach when he states that “the most significant social types for any institution or society may be expected to be found in its hero-cult” (Klapp 1958, 676).

The rapid cultural transition within post-industrial society and the growing role of style, fashion and identity symbols in the megalopolis (Wirth, 1938) have created an interesting phenomenon: the rapid emergence of various forms of youth culture, bot h within the working classes and the middle class, as well as among students (Cohen 1972). These are personified by such types as hippies, student militants, yuppies, grumps, dinks,25 teddy boys, mods and rockers, Hell’s An gels, skinheads, soccer hooligans, etc. Hence, the identification of new forms of youth culture must be paramount in the effort to detect new cultural types.26 This connection between the emergence of new youth cultures and the formation of new cultural types has made the anthropology of youth culture an important field for the research and analysis of cultural types.

The Mythological Type

The fourth source of social types is myth. The new mythological type includes people whose character has been shaped by emulating some fictional character created by the imagination of writers and directors or else by imitating national heroes, like fa mous soldiers, athletes, or show business stars. The emulated models serve as reference groups: “Hollywood glamour girls” (sex idols), Magic Johnson, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, Madonna, and Michael Jackson, to name a few.27 These models become desirable through channels of collective molding (books, magazines, shows, television, movies). Types molded by artists or such charismatic self-made men and women whose behavior is a source of continuing fascination m ay slowly penetrate the collective psyche, undergo a reification process, and eventually become real living social types. Jack Weston (1985) lists different American national heroes of this century who could be viewed as mythological types formed by the i nteraction of fiction and reality: “The frontier explorer or mountain man, the pioneer settler, the rags-to-riches business genius, the tough private eye, the GI, the gangster, the fearless newspaper editor, the movie star or entertainer, the on-the-road poet-philosopher, the world-weary expatriate of the Lost Generation, the misunderstood and brooding teenager, the populist politician or organizer, the major league baseball player, the prizefighter, the selfless nurse” (Weston 1985, 17).

The cult of celebrities and other dominant social types promoted by the mass media has produced many actual social types who shape their behavior according to the image, style and attitudes of the stars. The stars have become powerful cultural stylists and molders of people. Indeed, celebrity emulation, manipulated as it is by a wealthy, sophisticated industrial machine, has grown to wield such power that it serves today as an important catalyst in real social type formation. As Klapp puts it, “The you ng man of today might be described as a born celebritywatcher. He has been brought up on a diet of star dust since he was knee-high to a television set, which was probably his baby-sitter. He is likely to be a mass-communication addict who keeps an eye on television while his ear is tuned to a radio if possible. He is a member of some audience-at home, in a theater or stadium, or parked in his car-seven nights a week” (Klapp 1964, 14). Moreover, since the mythological type industry has tremendous commerci al potential, type imitation is also spread by mercantile activity. According to Klapp, “after the need for certain social types becomes recognized (possibly because a symbolic leader has established it), people organize economically to supply them as the occasion demands or to make it possible for imitations to appear. . . . When the beatnik type became fashionable, New York theatrical agents recruited ‘professional beatniks’ for hostesses to hire for their parties” (Klapp 1964, 60).

The typing process plays a major part in institutionalizing spontaneous behavior and in binding the imagination of artists to social reality. Since the artistic imagination is always a case of the brain manipulating data collected from daily experience s, the resultant social types are not only casual fruits of the imagination but, in the long run, also a reflection of the Zeitgeist under which the artist has lived and by which he has been influenced.28

Celebrities, of course, also do not emerge “out of the blue” but rather sprout out of the fertile ground of their culture. The process by which this occurs is well described by Smith: “The individual celebrity is always in some degree a model demanded by an audience. His or her celebrity cannot be explained as the automatic response of an audience to personal achievements; celebrities are not self-made. From the available personal models the audience selects, and in selecting makes its identification. The models, in turn, become agencies of taste, refinement of style, and clarification of personal values” (Smith 1974, 739).

The American cowboy is an example. His mythological image was produced by the ideals of the American Revolution (Weston 1985), and the immense consumption of Western books and films turned fictional images into reference groups. People began to act as the fictional heroes did, and eventually became real cowboys. Weston (1985), who studied the interaction between the various faces of the mythical cowboy in the mass media and the historical cowboy as he existed, wrote: “After all, we respond to cowboys a nd want to be them because they are appealing to us. Otherwise, they would not be heroes-perhaps the most important generic historical-mythical hero we have. We have helped to make them and have, in different degree, become them” (Weston 1985, 17).

Similarly, the traits of the Israeli Sabra-son and hero of the Zionist revolution (Elon 1971)-are symbolic of the revolutionary dream of Zionism and of the revolutionary period (war, settlement, etc.). It was the Zionist pioneers in striving to create a model for the new Jew who produced the image of the Sabra (Elon 1971; Schoenburn 1973). The exemplary traits of the many Sabras who fell in the War of Independence have been depicted in an unusual number of memorial books (Sivan 1991) which, in turn, di alectically raised the Sabra’s self esteem and eventually caused him to become established as a social type. As with the formation of other mythological types, this was a self-fulfilling prophesy.

A Few Practical “Tips” For Social Type Analysis

The main difficulty in social type analysis is the absence of a specified valid empirical method. I do not propose to offer a coherent solution but merely to suggest five basic steps toward social type analysis. These five steps may provide some clue t o the rewards and complexities of the methodology of social types.

1. Identifying a social type: The researcher must be convinced that the categorization of a social type is not illusory and that the group or category does indeed exist. The researcher, bearing in mind the fallacy that “all Chinese look alike,” must not be misled by subjective perception resulting from superficial first impressions. A warning against faulty generalizations is crucial when dealing with identification of social types in alien societies. According to Linton, “an investigator’s init ial impression of the members of an alien society is that all those in any particular status are much alike in personality” (Linton 1936, 484).

A good way of ascertaining real social types is to make use of the natural instincts of the public or the media, i.e., to look for special nicknames attached to certain groups. For example, consider the role of a new term like “nerd” in the social cons truction of the reality of this type. How do such terms come into being? When no such terms exist, usually no social types can come into (social) being. Wirth (1926, 1968), Klapp (1956, 1958, 1962), Strong (1946), Taub (1984) and Finestone (1957) have emp loyed this guideline. Wirth’s 1968 study of Jewish social types is one of the best examples of the validity of this method, for he identifies social types through the nicknames that the public or a particular group (in this case, the Jewish community) att aches to certain people.

The method of nickname investigation draws its logic from Klapp’s assumption that “if a role is very important, people will have a name for it” (Klapp 1956, 337).29 Moreover, Klapp states that “In attempting to character ize the role, there is a kind of striving to hit the mark: some wit, perhaps, find a name for it; or people may use the name of the person who first plays the role conspicuously (in life or fiction). . . . After a type becomes labeled, it can take on a fo rmal status, even specify an office that may be occupied by other.” (Klapp 1958, 676).

The name “cats,” for example, was assigned in the fifties by the American public to young colored drug-users and reflected a real social type that had emerged at that time (Finestone 1957). The same can be said of the egghead, uncle bim and teddy boys social types of the fifties or the hippies of the sixties, the yuppies of the eighties and the dinks of the nineties.

2. Building a data base: The nature of the data base used for social type analysis depends on the nature of the social type itself. If the investigation centers on a historical social type that no longer exists, such as the dandy, historical dat a will be required. Such data could be provided by newspapers, photo albums, or personal and formal correspondence, diaries, and collections of personal effects. Here, the task of the sociologist is similar to that of the archeologist, putting the scatter ed pieces together by using cultural hints. On the other hand, when dealing with modern-age social types, screening and analyzing movie and television films could be useful.

The study of contemporary social types calls for two basic data collecting methods. The first method, known as “reflective participation,” combines the sociological method of participant observation with face-to-face in-depth interviews of a representa tive sample from the social type group or category. For example, in order to construct a social type model for American combat pilots, the sociologist can join a typical American combat pilot squad, participate in its daily routine, and interview experien ced pilots. This method was used by Anderson in his study of the hobo type (Anderson 1923) and by Forsyth and Bankston (1983) in their study of the merchant seaman type. Forsyth and Bankston participated in the lives of merchant seamen and conducted in-de pth interviews with retired and currently employed seamen to obtain more detailed and general social biographical knowledge regarding their lifestyle (Forsyth and Bankston 1983).30

The second method, known as “Life History,” is slightly more complicated. It was used by Thomas and Znaniecki (1927) in their well-known study of the Polish peasant, by Sutherland (1963) in his study of the thief, and by Shaw (1968) in his study of the jack roller. This method, discussed by Burgess at the end of Shaw’s book, is based on drawing an autobiography of a specimen representing a group with the close collaboration of the specimen.31 In Shaw’s study, the experie nces of a typical delinquent were assumed to be roughly similar to those of a large portion of juvenile delinquents. Burgess (1968) compared the role of the sociologist who adopts this method to that of a “confessor” (Burgess 1968, 190). It is assumed tha t the experiences of the specimen reflect the experiences of his species, in Shaw’s case, the criminal community.

Whichever method is adopted, the collected data must include as much information as possible on the behavior and way of thinking of the social type. The sociologist can be likened to a detective who collects and records trivial evidence, such as eating habits, aesthetic taste and linguistic conduct. Just as in crime solving, such trivia could be highly significant clues to the full socio-historical “story” of the emergent social type.

Linguistic conduct is one of the best sources of this sort of information. Many social types have developed a lingo of their own, often using words known only to the group symbolizing their values. The “cat,” for example “had a large, colorful, and dis criminating vocabulary which dealt with all phases of his experience with drugs. In addition, he never seemed to content himself with the conventional word for even the most commonplace objects” (Finestone 1957, 4). Sutherland (1963) also demonstrates the importance of socio-linguistic conduct. His semantic analysis of the thief’s slang reveals some of the normative components of the thief’s world. For example, the word “front” (dress or appearan ce, to use one’s influence) is indicative of his manipulative skills (Sutherland 1963, 237).

3. A semiological analysis: This third step in social type analysis involves processing the collected data. Since such processing will require symbolic decoding, I recommend using Barthes’ method of semiology (Barthes 1967, 1977) which decodes c ultural symbols embodied in material objects (such as clothes, shoes and jewels) and in parts of the ethos (such as music, art, and language) by producing a gamut of connotations derived from the symbols or signs. For example, the hippie’s long hair at th e time connoted femininity which, in turn, projected a unisex message. By decoding this typical sign, one can ascertain one of the normative elements of the hippie cult. The same symbol could yield an entire gamut of connotations. For example, in the eyes of the public, long hair could also be indicative of uncivilized behavior which, in turn, would suggest new, fashionable and anti-establishment values-an impression that the hippies intended to create. Through cross references between the different seman tic levels in the semiology of the social type, one could obtain a picture of the declarative and the salient features that make up the character of the social type.

4. Building the prototype (the model): The fourth step in social type analysis consists of giving appropriate names to the features forming the social type patterns or, to use Weber’s idiom, as quoted by Smith (1974, 727), achieving a “Sinnzusam menhang.” Here, the task of the sociologist is to formulate the respective cultural components (style, ideals, patterns of interaction, etc.) characterizing the type and thus to devise a prototype.

Such a list of typical features or “distinguishing characteristics” has been proposed by Sway (1981)32 in his enumeration of the eleven basic features constituting the gypsy type: “strangeness of origin,” “no owner of so il,” “potential wanderer,” etc. (Sway 1981, 42). A similar process was applied by Smith (1974) in his study of the dandy. It is extremely important to attach a mnemonic name to each feature defining the type in order to be able to sum up its various compo nents. Sway’s 1981 presentation of features in the gypsy type is a good example of attaching mnemonic names to the features comprising a social type.

5. A socio-historical analysis: The fifth step in social type analysis is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the cultural roots of the social type. This can be accomplished through a socio-historical investigation of each feature, with Smith’s analysis of the dandy serving as a model. Smith aimed at developing “the concept of structural decrystallization and decay, to show how they enable us to describe the conditions under which general emphases on style will emerge” (Smith 1974, 727). This general method was also employed by Cohen (1972) in his research on the mods and rockers. He first identified the typical features of the mods and rockers and then confronted the behavioral questions: “How did the mods and rockers style emerge? Why did some young people who more or less identified with these groups behave in the way they did?” (Cohen 1972, 24). Judd’s 1985 socio-historical analysis of the hippies in which he traced their value orientation is another instance of the application of th is method.

The socio-historical roots of the features of a social type can be traced by clarifying the processes by which the social type has been socialized. An understanding of the nature of the type’s socialization agents and agencies is very useful to this en d. Smith’s understanding of the social mechanism in the schools of Eton and Oxford in 19th century England helped him to shed light on the sources of the emergence of the dandy in English culture (Smith 1974).


I stated at the outset that, surprisingly, the social type concept has been increasingly neglected in both empirical and theoretical work by sociologists and anthropologists. The publication dates of the references cited here bear ample testimony to th is unfortunate reality.

My argument is that social types are still, perhaps more than ever, an important link between an individual and his culture. I therefore foresee and hope for an upsurge in social type research and analysis which will serve not only as an analytical bridge between individual and society but also as a link between sociologi cal know-how and methods and the intuitive insights of the public at large. Social type analysis could launch and promote development of an integrative sociology by exploiting the advantages offered by intuitive analysis of the arts, journalism, history, literature and linguistics.

Since social types in fact epitomize their culture, they may serve as case studies for typifying and comparing groups, human categories, nations, and Zeitgeist.

Insofar as social types are produced by society, they could also serve as a tool for analyzing social transition. The case of the dandy is a good example of a social type signaling a cultural transition because the dandies were, in fact, social climber s who succeeded in gaining access to the highest echelons of the social elite (Smith 1974). Their story reflects the shake-up of European aristocracy and the emergence of a new capitalist world.33

These days, “spotting” new social types may be particularly worthwhile. We live in an era of rapid and dramatic changes where technological developments are melting cultures down into one global homogenous village. Cultural changes in ultramodern socie ties have transformed new biological generations into new cultural generations. The notion of decay as applied to a period measured by its association with particular fads, fashions, raves, or, styles symbolizes the rapid cultural transformations in our a ge, making the pursuit of an understanding of the Kulturgeist extremely elusive. Identifying new social types and analyzing their typical features could serve as a good index of the cultural trends of a period. “A changing social structure” says Klapp, “i s marked by both emerging and disappearing types” (Klapp 1958, 675). A new type might be indicative of a new cultural spirit and new structural forces.

The concept of social type may be particularly beneficial in the context of social diffusion theory. By analyzing the sources of behavior and way of thinking marking a particular social type, we may gain a better understanding of cultural diffusion. Ra lph Linton (1937) in his classic essay “The One Hundred Percent American” pointedly demonstrated that many cultural traits we consider distinctively American have, in fact, been diffused from other cultures and often have histories thousands of years old.

Moreover, in the past, the main exports of dominant nations have been technology, art and religion. Now, in the age of mass communication, these nations also export role models which transform psychological traits. Thus, finding that different societie s share similar social types provides supplementary evidence to the means and extent of cultural diffusion between nations. One example is the yuppie, a social type found today in many western countries. Its presence indicates the unique spread of America n culture.

The concept of social type may be also useful in sociological analysis of professions. The disappearance of old occupational role types or the emergence of new occupational role types may imply new social expectations and rewards and new professional p atterns and mechanisms.

Discourse on social types might point not only at change but might also help identify points of stability within otherwise changing, unstable social structures. The concept might thus be presented as a counterpoint to modern and postmodern theories ali ke that see lack of stability as a central characteristic in present-day societies.

Finally, by investigating social types, as indicated by Cohen (1972), we could be furnishing a scientific tool for analyzing collective behavior. Social revolutions, riots, mobs, political demonstrations, and wars all forge a new cultural background out of which new social types might emerge. These emergent types could arguably be described as cultural mutations or, in Park’s words, “cultural hybrid[s]” (Park 1928, 892).34

In light of the above, I believe that, despite all the difficulties entailed in social type research and analysis, the concept of social type deserves greater attention from sociologists. Social type is clearly a mechanism which could enable us, the so ciologists, to convey the complexity of our research to a much broader audience, a task that we are neglecting at considerable risk. From a sociological point of view, then, it would be beneficial to revive and further develop the tradition of the sociolo gy of social types.


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1. An acronym for young urban professionals.

2. See Strong (1943, 1946), Klapp (1958), Burgess (1968), Coser (1974) and Arditi (1982, 1987).

3. A majority of articles deal with a particular social type without mentioning the term “social type.” Some sociologists have used the term “social type” without referring to people but in order to classify different so cial phenomena. Spencer (1967), for example, uses the term to classify two kinds of societies: militant and industrial, and Bauman (1988) uses it to classify different societies.

4. Most of the sociologists who have dealt with social types emerge from the interactionist or transactional approach which focuses on how society labels rulebreakers as social types (Cohen 1972).

5. Described as the archetypal outsider.

6. The migrant is his most distinct example. See also Park and Burgess (1921).

7. See Silverman and Schneider (1985)

8. We use Manheim’s definition of “generation unit” (Manheim 1952).

9. For Weber’s methodology of ideal types, see also Rex (1977). For an example of the social type analyzed as the ideal type, see Finestone (1957). Alfred Schutz uses the term “personal ideal type as synonymous to social type (Schutz 1967, 187). “It must be observed”, as noted by Fairchild, “that ‘ideal’ as here used carries no connotation of ‘better’ or ‘poorer, ‘ i.e., entirely non-normative” (Fairchild 1964, 147).

10. By “rational” I don’t mean effective.

11. The clothing metaphor regarding role is employed by Turner (1978, 1).

12. See, for example, the all American boy type or the Israeli Sabra type.

13. See also Klapp (1954, 1962).

14. For example, counselors, physicians, officers, policemen, etc.

15. Whyte’s examples are: “The seminary student who will end up in the church hierarchy, the doctor headed for the corporate clinic, the physics Ph.D. in a government laboratory, the intellectual on the foundation-sponso red team project, the engineering graduate in the huge drafting room at Lockheed, the young apprentice in the Wall Street law factory” (Whyte 1957, 3-4).

16. See Collins (1979).

17. For example, Hippocrates’ typology of four social types.

18. Some of the theoretical perspectives of personality are: the theory of traits (Cattel), the theories of psychodynamics and psychoanalysis (Freud, Fromm, Horney, Laing, Adler, Sullivan, Perls), the theory of Behaviori sm (Skinner), the theories of social learning (Boundary), the situational approach (Mitchel), the theories of Interactionism and existentialism..

19. See Whyte’s study on “Street corner society” (Whyte 1943).

20. Much of the research carried out in Chicago after the arrival of Robert E. Park in 1966 has concentrated on characters emanating from the ecological conditions of cities and city life. See Wirth (1968), Zorbaugh (196 8) and Thrasher (1928). Zorbaugh, for example, wrote: ” The rooming-house area, like other areas of the city, tends both to select and characterize its population. In selecting its population, it acts chiefly upon age and economic status-perhaps upon temp eramental traits” (Zorbaugh 1968, 99).

21. Linton notes that “culture influences may be divided into two groups, the general and the specific. The general influences are those which culture exerts upon the developing personalities of all members of the societ y which bears it. The specific influences are those which it exerts upon persons belonging to particular, socially recognized groups or categories of individuals within the society” (Linton 1936, 470).

22. A good example of portraying a subculture through the cultural portrayal of its social type is Danilo’s book on the Sicilian Mafioso (Danilo 1968).

23. A good example is the Irish character (Bolger 1976).

24. Sa’d al-Din’s conclusion is that “in a way, all six types are products of the oilprice upheaval” (Sa’d al-Din 1982, 65).

25. Acronyms for “grown-up, mature professionals” and “double income no kids”.

26. See Schwartz (1969).

27. Klapp uses Weber’s terminology to describe this process: “Personal charisma becomes routinized by the typing process” (Klapp 1958, 676). For the process of building popular images see Harris (1957).

28. For the complex interaction between literature and culture see Templeton and Groce (1990) and Machoul (1988).

29. His term “role” here refers to the term “social type.”

30. One of the authors was employed as a merchant seaman for seven years.

31. Autobiographies can sometimes become a source of classification. Park used the autobiographies of Jewish immigrants only to find different versions of “the same story – the story of the marginal man” (Park 1928, 892) .

32. These features were integrated by Sway into Simmel’s social type of the “stranger.” For another two attempts to categorize the stranger’s features, see Kerckoff and McCormick (1955) and Wright (1966).

33. Finestone also takes such an attitude in his discussion of the “cat” type and concludes that “the social type of the cat is a product of social change. The type of social orientation which it has elaborated indicates an all too acute awareness of the values of the broader social order. . . . Just as the ‘hoodlum’ and ‘gangster’ types tend to disappear as the various more recently arrived white ethnic groups tend to move up in the status scale of the community, so it can confidently be expected that the cat as a social type will tend to disappear as such opportunities become more prevalent among the colored population” (Finestone 1957, 13).

34. Zorbaugh (1968) also uses the structural approach that likens the cultural evolution of social types to biological evolution: “The social type is the psychological parallel of the biological type. In the animal world, the stru ggle for existence, variation, selection, and adaptation-especially when favored by isolation-gives rise to new biological type. By biological type we mean merely a combination of structural and functional characteristics transmitted by heredity” (Zorbaut h 1968, 98).

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