similar in ways to simulacrum
where a representation
or an abstract
ion of a thing (usually a material
thing) is erroneously taken for a real thing and mistakenly granted the causal
powers of the thing it represents.
This mistake is most commonly associated with sociology. Sociology tends to rely on models of real things (populations, groups, etc) for simulating situations where controlled experiments are impossible. The unfortunate side effect of this dependence is that theory is sometimes built on data that has no relation to the real world. It's difficult to harshly criticize people for doing this because simulation is often used successfully and gathering reliable primary data for the social sciences is a son of a bitch to say the very least.
Marxist theory uses this idea to partially explain worker's alienation from their work and their treatment as objects instead of humans. While this term originated in Marxist social theory, its use has expanded to many schools of sociological theory.