Sociology Index



Reification is the mental conversion of a person or abstract concept into a thing. Reification is treating that which is abstract as something tangible. Reification is the error which consists in treating as a "thing" something which is not one. Reification is to treat as though real that which is just an abstraction or a conceptualization. Sociologists since David Emile Durkheim have been accused of reifying society which critics say is just an abstract concept and does not exist. Reification is to act as though society exists and thus can act or make decisions or coerce people is to reify society. In Marxism, reification is the consideration of an abstraction or an object as if it had living existence and abilities; at the same time it implies the thingification of social relations. In computer science, reification is the act of making a data model for a previously abstract concept. Briefly explained, reification is the consideration of an abstract thing as if it were concrete, or of an inanimate object as if it were living. The reification of others involves a disregard of the structures of normatively-imbued and meaningful recognition of others, where that disregard is located in distorted forms of sociality that serve to dehumanize participants and thereby perpetuate pathological social structures.

Reification of the physical world means a forgetfulness of the significance that objects and relations in the physical world might have for others. Reification of objects then involves a systematic forgetting of the way in which they are constituted as meaningful and useful to us only in a specific context of social purposes and social interaction. A reified category, once it becomes a default language through which to think and talk about international politics, narrows down avenues for diverging interpretations of international politics. Furthermore, endowing international society with agency hides real agents behind specific actions in international politics.

In History and Class Consciousness, Lukács asserts at the beginning of his essay that reification means nothing more than the fact that “a relation between people takes on the character of a thing” (Honneth 2008a, 21). In Lukács’s analysis, the object of reification itself turns out to be problematic. What exactly is reified, and what types of original inter-human relations do the reified relations of the capitalist economy replace? For Lukács, reification is an essentially contemporary phenomenon linked to the economic structure of capitalist societies, which is the only explanatory factor.

Reification in IR: The Process and Consequences of Reifying the Idea of International Society
Katarzyna Kaczmarska. International Studies Review, Volume 21, Issue 3, September 2019, Pages 347–372.
Abstract: This article studies the contentious problem of reification in international relations (IR) on the example of the idea of international society. It shows how the idea became reified, that is, how the move was made from approaching international society as one of several competing frameworks for the study of international politics to considering it an objective fact, a self-evident reality of international politics, and an entity in the possession of agency. I posit that reification has been the outcome of individual strategies and disciplinary practices pertaining to the knowledge production process, in particular the perceived need to establish and maintain a research program while continuing to provide viable explanations of world events. In discussing the consequences, I argue that reification adversely affects not only research outcomes but also the study process.

Identity and Alterity in Sociological Perspective, Frank Welz (Freiburg), "Culture and Society in the Era of Globalization", Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Abstract: Whereas all things considered the latter means a sanguine or pessimistic reification of group differences, the former view has become increasingly outdated: in an era of globalization the real experience of alterity that is the experience of different identities renders essentialist interpretations of identity obsolete.

Reification and Recognition: A Discussion with Axel Honneth
Christian Lazzeri. In Revue du MAUSS Volume 38, Issue 2, 2011, pages 259 to 285. This paper reconsiders the question of reification as presented by Axel Honneth in his recent reformulation of the theory of recognition. It first discusses the deepening of the concept of recognition and some of its limitations. The analysis then turns to possible definitions of reification and shows which one seems best with respect to a theory of recognition. Finally, it presents a more fine-grained perspective for the analysis of reifying social processes by combining the concepts of recognition, empathy, and reification.

Reification and the Sociological Critique of Consciousness - Peter Berger, Stanley Pullberg - History and Theory, Vol. 4, No. 2 (1965).

The Reification of Desire. Toward a Queer Marxism. 2009. Kevin Floyd. A new theoretical approach to the relationship between Marxism, queer culture and queer studies. The Reification of Desire takes two critical perspectives rarely analyzed together, formative arguments for Marxism and those that have been the basis for queer theory.