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typificationthe conceptual process by which both sociologists and social actors organize their knowledge of the social world, not in terms of the unique qualities of persons, things or events, but in terms of the typical features of these (see SCHUTZ, 1962-66).
Typification in sociology can be seen as no more than an extension of a process which already occurs in the social construction of everyday life by social actors. This fact has considerable significance in the eyes of those sociologists (see ETHNOMETHODOLOGY) who wish to deny that a sharp dividing line exists between the ‘practical sociology’ undertaken by everyday actors and ‘conventional academic sociology’. The latter school of thought is seen as failing to recognize this approach as tending to underestimate the ‘rational capacities’ and ‘cultural competence’ of ordinary social actors, and thus failing to see that sociology must be built upon, and be compatible with, the ‘rational accomplishments’ of ordinary social actors.
Whether or not these criticisms of ‘conventional academic sociology’ are fully accepted, attention to the everyday social and cultural ‘competence’ and the typifications of social actors can be regarded as an essential element of modern sociological analysis (see GIDDENS, 1976a). But the implications of this for academic sociology remain controversial. There is no general acceptance of the view of ethnomethodologists that a total ‘revolution’ in sociology is necessary (see GOLDTHORPE, 1973).
(1) In literature and art, the representation of the typical.
(2) In technology, the reduction, based on valid criteria, of a multiplicity of selected types to a limited number of types—for example, types of machine design, equipment, instruments, buildings, installations, or technical processes.
In machine building, the typification of machine design makes it possible to select the models with the best operating potential out of all those produced or actually in use. Limiting the number of types of machines that perform the same function provides a basis for the specialization of enterprises as well as for mass assembly-line and lot-production operations.
In construction, some examples of typification are found in the design and construction of a given type of building or installation, such as a dwelling or industrial installation, either as a whole or in sections—for example, a school, dwelling unit, hospital, or production shop of a standard type (in Russian, tipovoí). The designs for such buildings and installations are called typified, or standard, designs and are based on the projected use of standard structural elements and standard parts. In order to facilitate and reduce the cost of mass production, it is expedient to limit standard parts—such as floor beams, wall panels, or window casements—to the fewest possible number of standard sizes. The number of standard parts, structural elements, and buildings as a whole is determined by such factors as construction and by technical and economic considerations. As carried out in practice, typification is based on the module system and the unification of the various elements in buildings and installations; it is an essential condition for the adoption of industrial methods in construction and for the achievement of the goals of lower costs, shorter construction time, and improved quality.
The typification of technical operations consists of selecting and using only those technical processes that are most productive and profitable. In machine building, for example, where the multiplicity of parts and the complexity of production result in a very high number of operations, typification makes it possible to limit the extent of variation and to make greater use of standardized technical designs. The use of standardized rather than specialized technical equipment reduces labor intensiveness and shortens the period of technological preparation for production. Typification is implemented by coordinating the technical documentation of the various organizations concerned in the given case. In the chemical, petrochemical, and food industries, for example, standard technical processes are commonly used for any given product, thus enhancing the reliability and quality of production. Typification also contributes to higher labor productivity and the conservation of material resources, lowers the cost of production, and often makes it possible for technological innovations to be mastered more rapidly.