The term reification is linked to the notions of alienation and commodity fetishism. It refers to the idea that human qualities, relations, actions and even human beings themselves are transformed in the course of capitalist production into things, and these things come to have power over human beings. Karl Marx implicitly discusses the phenomenon of reification in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844), and explicitly analyses it in the Grundrisse (1857/58) and Capital (volume I, 1867; volume II, 1885; volume III, 1894). According to Marx, all the key elements of capitalist production, for example, the commodity, money, capital, profit, and wages, involve this process of reification. Social relations between individuals become thing-like relations between persons and social relations between things; social actions take the form of the action of things. Human creations become independent of their creators and human beings become subject to their own creations; human beings are governed by the system of commodity production that they created. The social origin of these economic creations, of wealth and value, becomes obscured, and bourgeois economists compound this mystification by presenting the attributes of these elements of capitalism as natural properties.
   The notion of reification was given prominence in Marxist thinking by Georgii Lukács in his History and Class Consciousness (1923) in which the main chapter was devoted to “Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat.” According to Lukács, commodity production entailed the key problem of fetishism, giving a relation between people the character of a thing and obscuring its origins. Reification gradually seeps into the inner life of society, even into the consciousness of human beings. Bourgeois society is in thrall to rationalism and rationalization, to the calculable and the measurable, and in the grip of a false consciousness that does not allow the social origins of capitalist relations to be perceived. The proletariat, its members treated as objects, as commodities, when it develops its class consciousness will actively rebel against reification and end it by ending capitalism. The place of reification in Marxist theory and its relation to other aspects remains a point of debate. For some it is a form or aspect of either alienation or commodity fetishism, while others see it as replacing the immature concept of alienation which was still rooted in philosophical idealism. In general, it has not received the same attention or been accorded the same importance as alienation and commodity fetishism.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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