RELATED TERMS: Alienation; Fetishism - Commodity fetishism; Historical materialism - Marxism

In the context of developing an actantial or a performative approach to the design and understanding of narrative environment design, which emphasises process and dynamic relations over static fixity, some Marxism-derived terms may be of value, One such term is reification.

The term reification derives from two Latin roots: res, meaning ’thing’, and facere, meaning ‘to make’. As a compound term, it is taken to mean ’to make into a thing’. It is used to describe the process by which a human subject or dynamic set of social relationships are regarded as objects, or are ‘objectified’, that is, rendered fixed and static. This results in the experience of alienation.

In Marxist theory, reification is said to occur through the exploitation of the worker by capital and is therefore related to Marx’s concept of commodity fetishism, which names the process by which the goods produced by human labour become commodities with exchange or monetary value, and this value is substituted for social relations of exchange. Under reification people are regarded as things: workers’ value is identified with the objects they produce for consumption and so, in becoming thus commodified, they lose their full humanity.

Although reification is associated especially with the Marxist critique of capitalism, certain thinkers, for example, Theodor Adorno, see it as a more durable feature of the human condition.


Brooker, P. (2003). A Glossary of Cultural Theory, 2nd ed. London, UK: Arnold.