REIFICATION

Marx (1967:72) described a commodity as "a mysterious thing, simply because in it the social character of men's labor appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labor...a definite social relation between men...assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things." Labor's commodification means that a laborer's skills and aptitudes are no longer considered an organic part of his/her personality. "Individuals treat their own bodies as objects made up of component units, each having its own demands" (Leiss, 1976:18). The individual, as both producer and consumer, is decomposed and a new unity is created consisting of a unique package of saleable parts.

Images of abstracted body parts such as hands, legs, lips, and hair are styled and endowed with a life of their own, so that desireable social relations tend to appear mediated by objects we have purchased as commodities. In the world of commodity selves, this ad for L'Erin nail gloss is typical of ads in which subjective persona and the capacity for human agency have been located in specially named objects.

As Williamson reminds us, ads offer a space in which to translate a world of object relations into social relations. Reification refers to the tendency for human beings and social relations to be thought of as things, while those nonhuman objects seem to assume human powers.

Things produced by human activity take on the appearance of being active agents. When you actually pause and reflect on this it seems a little weird, this notion that objects can magically yield us a social self. Yet we have seen how inviting it is to fill that absence within us, by giving it a socially sanctioned materiality. Identity and acceptance, Fetishism and totemism go hand in hand.

People have remarked on this thousands and thousands of times. Ads object-ify who and what we are. This Max Factor ad for lipstick presses the logic of commodity fetishism further -- equating the commodity-treated body part as the essence of being a woman.

Reified Desires?