I will first examine Smiths division of labor using “The nature and causes of the Wealth of Nations” written by Adam Smith
I will first examine Smiths division of labor using “The nature and causes of the Wealth of Nations” written by Adam Smith. He begins stating that if division of labor is carried out in producing an object, then we can make things more efficiently, which leads to the product being sold at a cheaper rate which increases the consumption value and thus, enhances the economic growth of a country. Secondly, it will show us how his image of division of labor is very much based upon the need to control people. Adding on, Smith wants every individual to look after their own self-interests and not shift their burden of maintenance on others. People will not work, out of goodwill but, for profits. So Smith wants to harness that selfishness among the people through a marker. Therefore, if we can specialize in tasks, the production increases, thus the flow of goods in the market rises which advances the society. Finally, it will give a comparison between barbarous and division of labor societies to understand how different societies think about division of labor to reproduce their own existence and which leads to the creation of social hierarchy. A few other writings by authors like Lisa Hill, Karl Marx, Nathan Rosenberg, and Harry Braverman will help me in proving reference for the points stated below.
To start off with, division of labor is when a task with different operations are carried among multiple workers to form a single product for increasing productiveness exponentially and movement of development. This, in turn, it is applicable even in the simplest task offered. Thus, Smith states that, ”This great increase of quantity of work, which in consequence of the division of labor, the same number of people are capable of performing, is owing to three different circumstances; first, to the increase of dexterity in every particular workman; secondly, to the saving of the time which is commonly lost in passing from one species of work to another; and lastly, to the invention of a great number of machines which facilitate and abridge labor, and enable one man to do the work of many.”(Smith 1981, pg. 17)
Karl Marx states that since division of labor compels us to perform a particular task, in that manner our natural capacity of creativity is stolen. Some element of our humanity gets lost in this work, and we end up pursuing animal spirit. However, Nathan Rosenberg proclaims a point that ‘If a mans business in life is the performance of two or three things, the bent of his mind will be to find out the cleverest way of doing it’. (Nathan Rosenberg 1965, pg.no 129) Therefore, we can conclude that there is a bag full of pros and cons for this argument and each writer portrays different thoughts in their own ways.
In addition to the above discussion, Adam Ferguson and Adam Smith also have different views for specialization. Smith focuses on the economic effects of specialization, although Ferguson is interested in social consequences. According to Adam Smith, specialization of work creates interdependence as one product can’t be produced by one individual. As a result, it erodes individual intellectual capacity on one hand, on the other, it enhances the general intelligence of the society. (Smith 1979 pg.no 346) However, Ferguson aimed at virtue and military security because he was aware that the production of goods would intensify through specialization, however, educating the people for security was a problem. To contradictory to Marx, Adam Smith states that these attendant problems could be solved within existing social and political arrangements. (Smith 1979 pg.no 345)
Indeed, Adam Smith posses that the ‘workers might be free to become their own masters; to leave the factory system and set up on their own (Smith 1979 pg.no 346)’. Smith, creates this world which is the heart of this problem, that, the people need to be controlled and managed. People doing routine tasks for their living ends up with no sense of moral and intellectual interest. Thus, he argues that people become merely more animalistic which leads to no intellectual exercising of their own mind work and they tend to drop their existing knowledge. As a result of boredom, they enforce themselves in losing their generosity, noble, or tender sentiments. Also, Smith argues that it will make some people incapable of learning and putting down their own individual knowledge which would affect the societal knowledge as well. To add on, he also says that employees will not act politically, and in return, they would vote against capitalism.
Taylor too was keen to control the labor force regardless of the advancement of the technology. (Braverman 1974, pg.no 62) He states that “science of work” is never to be developed by the worker, always by management. (Braverman 1974, pg.no 79) This explains to us that the chronological order of the task shall be decided by the management describing in detail, the procedure, amount of time that shall be allocated for each course of action and the best method to carry out the task of manufacturing an object. This is the stage where scientific management comes into the picture. He also introduced a concept of ‘side rule’ (Braverman 1947, pg.no 77) where the complexity of a task is taken in a consideration and an optimum combination to carry out the work is driven out.
To get this mechanism in place and manage these people Adam Smith calls for a martial society. Under this society, we educate people, not for the betterment of their work but, to control them in one sense, so that they feel like they have some stake in the society and they don’t demolish it. A basic education will make people ‘more respectable’ and orderly. (Smith 1979 pg.no 347). Employees are trained in order to behave better. Consequently, people tend to become civically active rather than acting anti-social, earn intellectual enjoyment out of their lives, be public-spirited, and become courageous warriors (Smith 1979, pg. no 783). Adding on, Karl Marx mentions that there is a direct relationship between people and the work. He says for means for subsistence, an employee receives work. This enables him to live and endure. Yet, people are not satisfied enough to meet their own needs and want which shoves them to fall under barbarous society and hence machines took over men. (Karl Marx 1844, pg.no 23) Taylor also expresses a point that, at any given level of technology, with the control of labor force, he would build overall development of knowledge of the society through bravery he would set a pattern for all types of workers in the society to accomplish their ambition. Thus, labor itself has become part of the capital. (Braverman 1947, pg.no 80)
From adopting division of labor, it, ‘occasions’ a ‘universal opulence, which extends itself’ even ‘to the lowest ranks of the people’ (Smith 19791776, pg.no 342). Adam Smith is describing that specialization of work helps in allocating work even to the non-working and uneducated class of the society. This, in turn, helps in keeping their minds busy and active and constantly allows them to make a living out of it. Though, division of work complicates the task among workers but, the individual worker becomes the cheapest non-linear servo-mechanism. (Nathan Rosenberg 1965, pg.no 135) This results in the growth of individual knowledge and the overall expansion of knowledge within the society.
On the other hand, barbarous society is another class of society where every individual has an opportunity to invent as they aren’t controlled and regulated by anyone. They keep their mind alive, challenges themselves and benefits the society. They always think as one whole society before enacting upon anything. Every man in some measure is a statesman and can form a tolerable judgment concerning the interest of the society, and the conduct of those who govern it. (Smith 1981 pg.no 783) Nevertheless, Adam has a fear that every person in the society might not understand the politics as they aren’t educated. This might lead them to simply follow the crowd blindly.
In conclusion, sub-division of a task is essential as spoken earlier by Smith about pin maker industry, that the quantity of the pins produced is much lower when an individual produce to when is it dividend among numerous people to carry out the same task. However, division of labor not only shapes work, but also the population. It builds mass simple employees by providing education, dexterity, and motivation which increases the opulence of the individuals and population as a whole. This training will help them to act politically and take their own decisions in society and however have more control and decision-making power. Being smarter, they will want to give the uneducated ones the opportunity and look for cheap labor. More than that, it doesn’t create any hierarchical order in respective of sex as well. They do not as a rule divide up and carry out all operations equally. Therefore, it is clear that every man has a say and a position of himself in society regardless of their status, caste, religion or any other sort of political or social background.