[Marxism] reification (was: Re: file sharing and music: what's "reification"?)

Nick Fredman sra at scu.edu.au
Tue Jun 1 19:03:08 MDT 2004

Looking up reification on Miriam-Webster Online, one is pointed to 
Encloypedia Britannica, which tells us it's:

"the treatment of something abstract as a material or concrete thing, 
as in the following lines from Matthew Arnold's poem 'Dover Beach':

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. "

I thought is meant something like a social process whereby people 
believe, or pretend for ideological reasons, that something abstract 
is a real or concrete thing, rather than doing such a thing for 
poetic reasons (i.e. the metaphor of the first two lines above). 
Anyway, as I understand it, reification is related to fetishisation, 
as in the first chapter of Capital on commodity fetishisation, 
whereby money is seen as a real concrete thing, when in fact it's an 
abstraction, that represents real social relations. Marx got the 
concept from an analogy to various religions, wherein a fetish (like 
a totem poll of a voodoo doll) is seen as having real, concrete power 
when it in fact represents or obscures real social relations.

I remember hearing a reviewer describe the funny scene in the film of 
American Psycho when the executives compare their business cards as a 
clever representation of fetishisation in capitalism. I've never got 
my head around the difference between reification and fetishisation 

Nick Fredman
Student Rights Advocate
Southern Cross University (Lismore)
Student Representative Council

Shop 9 Plaza, SCU Lismore

Ph: 6620 3044
Email: sra at src.scu.edu.au
web: http://www.lismoresrc.org.au/


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