As we have seen, Adorno holds that experience has, under the conditions of modernity, become ‘reified’. Reified experience is a distortion of subject-object interaction: it is not genuine experience as such. Adorno, in common with other theorists who hold that there is reification, defines it negatively or contrastively. Reified experience is experience in which the subject adopts an instrumental relation, rather than a responsive one, to other things. Reification, as Joseph Gabel puts it, is ‘a way of being-in-the-world’ (Gabel 1975: 152). And that way is one in which the world is understood

as comprising discrete and limited objects. In a reified world objects are delimited, or ‘thing-ified’. An environment of reification is one in which objects are given fixed and limited identities. This, according to Adorno, allows them to be simply manipulated and instrumentalized by the subject. But this form of relating to objects inhibits the subject’s experience as it engages with ‘things’ without openness to the possible richness of objects. Objects are, rather, experienced as familiar since they are shaped for use by the manipulating subject. The subject, Adorno argues, expects them to be amenable to its projects. As he puts that thought: ‘subjectification and reification do not merely diverge. They are correlates’ (ND 91). Now one might well think that ‘manipulation’ and ‘instrumentali-

zation’ are simply pejorative terms for what are, in fact, natural, evolutionarily achieved ways of dealing with our complex environment. Those who are troubled by the phenomenon of reification typically respond to that kind of contention, however, by identifying it precisely as a contention of a reified consciousness. A reified consciousness does not appreciate that it is, in fact, part of a social process which normatively informs its beliefs and actions. It takes that process, again, to be quite natural. As Adorno explains the general principle:

I mentioned the concept of reified consciousness. Above all this is a consciousness blinded to all historical past, all insight into one’s own conditionedness, and posits as absolute what exists contingently. If this coercive mechanism were once ruptured, then, I think, something would be gained.