Reification (Marxism)

Reification (Marxism)

Reification (German: Verdinglichung, literally: "making into a thing" (cf. Latin "res" meaning "thing") or Versachlichung, literally "objectification"; regarding something impersonally) In Marxism reification is the thingification of social relations or of those involved in them, to the extent that the nature of social relationships is expressed by the relationships between traded objects (see commodity fetishism and value-form).

Typically it involves separating out something from the original context in which it occurs, and placing it in another context, in which it lacks some or all of its original connections yet seems to have powers or attributes which in truth it does not have. Thus reification involves a distortion of consciousness, ranging from the rather innocent, to the grotesque.

Reification in thought occurs when an abstract concept describing a relationship or context is treated as a concrete "thing", or if something is treated as if it were a separate object when this is inappropriate because it is not an object or because it does not truly exist in separation.

Marx argues that reification is an inherent and necessary characteristic of economic value such as it manifests itself in market trade, i.e. the inversion in thought between object and subject, or between means and ends, reflects a real practice where attributes (properties, characteristics, features, powers) which exist only by virtue of a social relationship between people are treated as if they are the inherent, natural characteristics of things, or vice versa, attributes of inanimate things are treated as if they are attributes of human subjects.

This implies that objects are transformed into subjects and subjects are turned into objects, with the result that subjects are rendered passive or determined, while objects are rendered as the active, determining factor. Hypostatization refers to an effect of reification which results from supposing that whatever can be named, or conceived abstractly, must actually exist, an ontological and epistemological fallacy.

The concept is related to, but is distinct from, Marx's theories of alienation and commodity fetishism. Alienation is the general condition of human estrangement. Reification is a specific form of alienation. Commodity fetishism is a specific form of reification.

Read more about Reification (Marxism):  Quotations From Marx Showing The Use of The Concept, Development and Significance of The Concept, Criticism, See Also