Objectification is treating others as if they are only potential sources of advantage, or objects to be acted upon. Objectification is not just honoring one's own self-interest, but is an active way of avoiding true contact with others. To objectify humans is to de-humanize them. Few people do this deliberately or consciously , but an over-emphasis on accomplishing things, material development, being in control, or efficiency will bring it about. Not only people, but animals, plants, and minerals can be objectified. First, the elements of objectification are listed below (credit given to Martha Nussbaum):
- Instrumentality –The person or thing is treated as a tool for one's own purposes.
- Inertness – The person or thing is treated as if lacking in agency
- Denial of autonomy –The person or thing is treated as if lacking in self-determination. This is most relevant to humans.
- Ownership –The person or thing is treated as if owned by another.
- Fungability – The person or thing is treated as if interchangeable. Think of Wilhelm Reich's concept of the mass individual.
- Violability– The person or thing is treated as if it is permissible to damage or destroy.
- Denial of Subjectivity–The person or thing is treated as if there is no need to show concern for the 'object's' feelings and experiences. A different point of view is considered a mistake.
Objectification is often joined to the concept of 'progress' or development. Objectification is most prevalent in conservative political thought. Besides the obvious effects suggested by the list above, objectification affects contact in the following ways:
- Narcissism (placing images above feelings) is not quite the same as objectification, but the two are extremely compatible and self-reinforcing
- A tendency to overdo or exceed limits. Damage is blamed on the 'object' him or herself.
- There is greater feeling than in abstraction, but the feeling often steers into a sadism/masochism format
- Fellowship is attempted on the basis of loyalty, allegiance, or common experience.
- Plays out somewhat differently in close relationships than distant ones, but is present in all. Groups form of 'insiders,' who are treated better, and 'outsiders' that are objectified completely.
- Protection is offered for insiders but little real support. Outsiders receive little empathy, or are even demonized.
- Originates from the middle or muscular layer