Quick Reference

1. The treatment of a relatively abstract signified (e.g. technology, mind, or self) as if it were a single, bounded, undifferentiated, fixed, and unchanging thing, the essential nature of which could be taken for granted (see essentialism). It is a representational practice which functions to establish the self-evident reality of the concept in question, treating it as if it has the ontological status of a specific physical thing in an objective material world. Reification suppresses the human intervention involved in the defining process as if the signifier were neutral and had been an integral part of a pre-existing thing in the world. Reification makes no allowance for the cultural and ideological frameworks which produced the signifier. Just because we have a word for something such as the self or the mind does not make it a ‘real’ entity, and yet the widespread and routine use of a signifier can appear to validate the existence of the signified as a taken-for-granted thing in itself. Perception itself may unavoidably involve reification. Technological determinists are often criticized for reifying technology in general or a particular medium such as television or the computer. Reification is a difficult charge to avoid, since any use of linguistic categorization (including words such as ‘society’ or ‘culture’) could be attacked as reification.

2. (Marxist theory) The conversion of the subject to an object, as when the worker becomes a commodity: see also commodity fetishism.

Subjects: Media Studies.

Reference entries

See all related reference entries in Oxford Index »