self-commodification and reification

I have, over the last few weeks, been thinking quite some amount about the process of making friends. It is a topic that I have thought much about over the years of my (self)conscious awareness; and, given the new socio-spatial landscape, it is something I return to now.

As one comes into a new area (e.g. a new students’ ‘party’), what one might think of as a marketplace of identity, there is the (I believe implicit) expectation within the system to commodify oneself in order that the two parties in question may more easily become acquainted. One does not walk into the room and begin a monologue of identity, spilling forth their history, heart, and health for the benefit of the new acquaintance. We are not whole-sale objects. Rather we, in something of a civil form of bartering, exchange piece for piece our information so as to ‘get to know eachother’. This exchange is, somehow, to be of real worth to all parties (both human and institutional) involved. For, as the argument goes, these peers (be it an academic or professional setting, it does not matter) are an important resource in the well-being of the institution and the advancement of the individuals. It has been argued by some that this constitutions a ‘neoliberal self’, a view of one’s own person as a business and one’s talents and experience the marketable aspects of your ‘brand’.

While this may be true I think there is an important under-girding of self-reification happening simultaneously. In fact, I would argue that there are two sorts of reification occurring en tandem. The first the more obvious Marxian interpretation along these lines: Viewing our own self and the self of the person with whom this discourse of introduction is occuring as resources toward our individual and conjoined knowledge, renders us down from the abstract fully human, into parcelled aspects of our corporate worth. I am no longer the cohesive I, but rather the joint amalgamation of the parts of knowledge and ability I am able to offer to my comrade in arms.

The second is like unto the first, but is produced internally: We (the contemporary Euro-American super-culture) reify our neighbour and follow a Golden Rule of “Let be done unto us as we have done unto our neighbour”, thus we prepare ourselves for this rendering. This process is not necessarily Marxian Reification, but rather reification in its more basic sense — the making real of the abstract. Thus we chunk our identity, taking it from the complex network which is our own self, purifying it for the easy observation of our audience: I am from [ … ], I’m studying [ … ], This cheese dip is excellent, My life goal is [ … ], etc. I believe this is done for a number of reasons, particularly in an attempt to make real our selves — to substantiate our own abilities, interests, and experiences in the new and unknown landscape we have been thrust into.

The difficulty with this whole process of commodification and reification is that, while it may (emphasise on the ‘may’) assist in the networking of the parties involved, and — consequently — ensure a better (statistical) outcome for all involved, I do not believe it helps at all in the process of friend-making. The contrary, in fact.

And, to top it all off, the room was too crowded to get to the cheese dip.

Advertisements

~ by jeorgesmith on 15 October 2009.

5 Responses to “self-commodification and reification”

  1. Help! I don’t understand! What is reification?

  2. Well, look at the bright side — you saved yourself a lactose pill. :)

  3. You wrote:

    “Thus we chunk our identity, taking it from the complex network which is our own self, purifying it for the easy observation of our audience: I am from [ … ], I’m studying [ … ], This cheese dip is excellent, My life goal is [ … ], etc. I believe this is done for a number of reasons, particularly in an attempt to make real our selves — to substantiate our own abilities, interests, and experiences in the new and unknown landscape we have been thrust into.”

    Do you think that consciously changing conversational vocabulary to include fewer first person singular pronouns can help with this (or at least using fewer of them to start sentences)? This is something I’ve tried before, but its difficult. There are subtle changes that appear in the way I relate to others and it takes some focus off of self.

  4. V, to reify is to make real the abstract.
    Aileen, good point. though, I didn’t have a lactose pill on me. Nor do I tend to actually like cheese dips… though sometimes they are necessary.

  5. MG, Yes and No. First, as a nota bene, the list of examples was entirely extemporaneous at the time of writing and not necessarily a fair representation of what I or any other party actually said (in fact, the cheese dip was, to my knowledge entirely fictional). But, the first-person focus tends, I think, to be a by product of the situation. In a given silence in conversation it appears to be the practice of persons to ask a question along the lines of “I seek Knowledge X about you”, or “What do you think of subject Y”. Both formulas are rather difficult to answer without the first person frame. If one can (and this is the mark of a good conversationalist), the conversation should be diverged onto topics of mutual interest. The difficulty is that in transnational and pan(non)religious groups, it is hard to find a topic that is mutually interesting and non-offensive. Thus the return to the common denominator of I versus You. (Though I might be a pessimist.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: