Reification is similar to the idea of anthropomorphism (giving human qualities to animals. Even if you’ve never heard of the word you’ll be familiar with what it involves from the thousands of YouTube videos, featuring cute cats and dotty dogs, that clog-up your Facebook feed. Also, every Disney cartoon that features talking mice, ducks and assorted farmyard animals).
The error of reification, however, involves attributing human characteristics to anything that is not human – and this makes it especially useful in some areas of Sociology, particularly those that talk about social structures in human terms.
It’s a particularly useful concept to apply when you want to criticise Functionalist perspectives that talk about social institutions having “needs” and “purposes” – such as the “purpose” of the education system being to satisfy the “needs” of the workplace for differentiated individuals.
The beauty of this concept for both AS and A2 students is that you can introduce it as a quick, easy and very effective way of introducing high-value evaluation into exam answers.