Reification is a concept that considers that relationships between human beings are not acts derived from the people themselves. Instead, it is argued that, due to the dominance of capitalism, these relationships are independent and operate outside of human character itself.
That is, this concept is used to refer to the relationships of human beings as things or acts independent of man, thus losing the “humanity” of personal relationships.
Reification is characteristic of capitalist society, where private work and commodification reign, where workers are used as simple pieces that make up a perfect mechanism of the production process. Likewise, values such as solidarity, cooperation and mutual aid are conspicuous by their absence.
As a consequence, human relationships do not depend on the people themselves, but on these factors derived from capitalism.
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Reification is a Marxist concept, framed within the philosophical and economic thought of Marxism in its broadest conception. That is, considering Marxism as all thought derived from Marx and his descendants.
In fact, although Marx considered that the relations between human beings were largely influenced by capital, it is Georg Lukács who developed this concept of reification.
Alienation and reification
These concepts operate in a very similar field, they can get confused, so we are going to mention the relationship between them.
Alienation refers to a person’s lack of consciousness and identity, caused by the imposition of capitalist chains. People do not own their tools, their work, their property, or, ultimately, their lives.
Reification, for its part, is a consequence of alienation. In other words, as a result of the fact that man is not his own master, relations between them will not depend on them either, but rather on the mercantilist environment in which they operate.
Differences between reification and reification
Some people use these concepts as synonyms, since their meaning is practically the same, but a distinction can be made.
Reification is the process by which something or someone is transformed into an object. One of the most popular examples is that of women. Feminism argues part of its struggle in combating their objectification, which occurs when they are used, for example, in advertising to increase sales; in sports as stewardesses; or when they pose nude on calendars or other documents.
On the other hand, reification is strictly limited to human relationships, while reification is done with any other element.
We can see this consideration of human relations as independent of the person itself in some examples: