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.

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

Axel Honneth, Verdinglichung: Eine Annerkennungstheoretische Studie (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2005). (In German, Reification is called Verdinglichung). - Extract from Social Pathologies as Second-Order Disorders
Christopher F. Zurn, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, University of Kentucky
"Honneth argues that the concept of reification can be productively re-animated today under changed theoretical and historical conditions by understanding acts of reification as actions in which an objectivating stance to the others, the world, or the self is adopted, while simultaneously forgetting the constitutive connections that such an objectivating stance has to our practical, interested, and normatively laden interactions with others. 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. Reification of objects is then a sort derivative phenomenon from the reification of others. Reification of one’s own self involves a distorted relation to one’s own inner states, where one forgets that one’s relation to self is first and foremost a practical relation. The analysis identifies two varieties of such self-reification evident in contemporary culture. Exemplary here is the kind of reification that occurs when individuals are required to take a disinterested stance towards their personality type and adjust their detached observations of their inner states to standardized grids for self-profiling: think for instance of the reification involved in establishing one's identity profile in on-line dating forums.