Reification (Marxism)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Reification (German: Verdinglichung, literally: "thing-ification") is the consideration of an abstraction or an object as if it had human (pathetic fallacy) or living (reification fallacy) existence and abilities; at the same time it implies the thingification of social relations.

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 and seems to have powers or attributes which in truth it does not have. Thus reification involves a distortion of consciousness.

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.

Marx argues 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 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 differs from, Marx's theories of alienation and commodity fetishism.





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Reification (Marxism)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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