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Objectification (of human beings)

A fallacy of abstraction that consists in regarding people as objects or abstract concepts (and treating them as such).

For example:

The available resources should be better utilised in order to carry out the work effectively.

What is objectified here as “resources”, are in fact people. They should also be referred to as such.

Other names


In a modern society, one will always have to manage people in large crowds – be it government or employees in large companies, pupils or students, participants in a demonstration or a large event, and so on.

There are also situations where it makes sense to consider them primarily at a certain level of abstraction, i.e. as a crowd. For example, when planning the capacity of a venue, catering, escape routes, etc., it hardly makes sense to look at each individual, but instead one should look at the crowd and its behaviour as a whole.

It becomes a problem when this view is also used in a context where this abstraction is no longer appropriate: the workforce of a large company, for example, consists of individuals with different life situations, abilities, potentials, and experiences. Reducing them to their role as “resources” does not do justice to these differences and is more likely to lead to less efficiency (through dissatisfaction, fluctuation, inefficient use of labour, etc.).


A sligntly different perspective is found in , which describes the reduction of human relations to the exchange of commodities with the German word “Verdinglichung ”.

In this context, the term refers to the phenomenon that workers in an industrial context are objectified to solely stand for the products they produce.


An extreme form of no longer considering people as such is called “dehumanisation”: in this extreme case, humans are no longer recognised as such, but are labelled with terms or abstracted to such an extent that they can be denied their basic human rights.

Especially in political propaganda, rhetorical or graphic devices are often used to portray opponents as “non-human”. This is often applied to specific social groups, such as homeless people, prison inmates, ethnic groups, etc.) as a pretext or justification to subject them to inhumane treatment and discrimination.

Such dehumanisation can also be hidden in abstract terms that conceal human life or suffering. A good example for this is the term “collateral damage” for unintentional (but accepted) victims of military operations.

See also

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