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The division of labour is the separation of the tasks in any
economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system of Production (economics), production, resource allocation and Distribution (economics), distribution of goods and services within a society or a given geographic area. It includes the combinati ...
or
organisation An organization or organisation (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth English; American and British English spelling differences#-ise, -ize (-isation, -ization), see spelling differences), is an legal entity, entity—such as ...
so that participants may specialise (specialisation). Individuals, organizations, and nations are endowed with, or acquire specialised capabilities, and either form combinations or trade to take advantage of the capabilities of others in addition to their own. Specialised capabilities may include equipment or
natural resource Natural resources are resources that are drawn from nature and used with few modifications. This includes the sources of valued characteristics such as commercial and industrial use, aesthetic value, scientific interest and cultural value. O ...
s as well as skills, and training and combinations of such assets acting together are often important. For example, an individual may specialise by acquiring tools and the skills to use them effectively just as an organization may specialise by acquiring specialised equipment and hiring or training skilled operators. The division of labour is the motive for
trade Trade involves the transfer of goods and services from one person or entity to another, often in exchange for money. Economists refer to a system or network that allows trade as a market (economics), market. An early form of trade, barter, s ...
and the source of economic interdependence. Historically, an increasing division of labour is associated with the growth of total output and
trade Trade involves the transfer of goods and services from one person or entity to another, often in exchange for money. Economists refer to a system or network that allows trade as a market (economics), market. An early form of trade, barter, s ...
, the rise of
capitalism Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets, price system, pr ...
, and the increasing complexity of
industrialised Industrialisation ( alternatively spelled industrialization) is the period of social and economic change that transforms a human group from an agrarian society An agrarian society, or agricultural society, is any community whose economy is b ...
processes. The concept and implementation of division of labour has been observed in ancient
Sumer Sumer () is the earliest known civilization in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia (south-central Iraq), emerging during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age, early Bronze Ages between the sixth and fifth millennium BC. It is one of ...
ian (
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن or ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the F ...
n) culture, where assignment of jobs in some cities coincided with an increase in trade and economic interdependence. Division of labour generally also increases both producer and individual worker productivity. After the Neolithic Revolution, pastoralism and agriculture led to more reliable and abundant food supplies, which increased the population and led to specialisation of labour, including new classes of artisans, warriors, and the development of elites. This specialisation was furthered by the process of
industrialisation Industrialisation (American and British English spelling differences, alternatively spelled industrialization) is the period of social and economic change that transforms a human group from an agrarian society into an industrial society. This ...
, and
Industrial Revolution The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe, and the United States, that occurred during the period from around 1760 to about 1820–1840. This transition included going fr ...
-era factories. Accordingly, many
classical economists Classical economics, classical political economy, or Smithian economics is a school of thought A school of thought, or intellectual tradition, is the perspective of a group of people who share common characteristics of opinion or outlook of a ...
as well as some mechanical engineers, such as
Charles Babbage Charles Babbage (; 26 December 1791 – 18 October 1871) was an English polymath. A mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer, Babbage originated the concept of a digital programmable computer. Babbage is considered ...
, were proponents of division of labour. Also, having workers perform single or limited tasks eliminated the long training period required to train craftsmen, who were replaced with less-paid but more productive unskilled workers.


Ancient theories


Plato

In
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, wikt:Πλάτων, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was a Greeks, Greek philosopher born in Athens during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece. He founded the Platonist school of thou ...
's ''
Republic A republic () is a "sovereign state, state in which Power (social and political), power rests with the people or their Representative democracy, representatives; specifically a state without a monarchy" and also a "government, or system of gov ...
'', the origin of the state lies in the natural inequality of humanity, which is embodied in the division of labour: Silvermintz (2010) notes that "Historians of economic thought credit Plato, primarily on account of arguments advanced in his Republic, as an early proponent of the division of labour." Notwithstanding this, Silvermintz argues that "While Plato recognises both the economic and political benefits of the division of labour, he ultimately critiques this form of economic arrangement insofar as it hinders the individual from ordering his own soul by cultivating acquisitive motives over prudence and reason."


Xenophon

Xenophon Xenophon of Athens (; grc, wikt:Ξενοφῶν, Ξενοφῶν ; – probably 355 or 354 BC) was a Greek military leader, philosopher, and historian, born in Athens. At the age of 30, Xenophon was elected commander of one of the biggest Anci ...
, in the 4th century BC, makes a passing reference to division of labour in his ''
Cyropaedia The ''Cyropaedia'', sometimes spelled ''Cyropedia'', is a partly fictional biography of Cyrus the Great, the founder of Persia's Achaemenid Empire. It was written around 370 BC by Xenophon, the Athens, Athenian-born soldier, historian, and studen ...
'' (a.k.a. ''Education of Cyrus'').


Augustine of Hippo

A simile used by
Augustine of Hippo Augustine of Hippo ( , ; la, Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis; 13 November 354 – 28 August 430), also known as Saint Augustine, was a theologian and philosopher of Berbers, Berber origin and the bishop of Hippo Regius in Numidia (Roman pr ...
shows that the division of labour was practised and understood in late Imperial Rome. In a brief passage of his ''
The City of God ''On the City of God Against the Pagans'' ( la, De civitate Dei contra paganos), often called ''The City of God'', is a book of Christian philosophy written in Latin language, Latin by Augustine of Hippo in the early 5th century AD. The book w ...
'', Augustine seems to be aware of the role of different social layers in the production of goods, like household ( ''familiae''), corporations (''collegia'') and the state.


Ibn Khaldun

The 14th-century scholar
Ibn Khaldun Ibn Khaldun (; ar, أبو زيد عبد الرحمن بن محمد بن خلدون الحضرمي, ; 27 May 1332 – 17 March 1406, 732-808 Hijri year, AH) was an Arabs, Arab The Historical Muhammad', Irving M. Zeitlin, (Polity Press, 2007), ...
emphasised the importance of the division of labour in the production process. In his ''
Muqaddimah The ''Muqaddimah'', also known as the ''Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun'' ( ar, مقدّمة ابن خلدون) or ''Ibn Khaldun's Introduction (writing), Prolegomena'' ( grc, Προλεγόμενα), is a book written by the Arabs, Arab historian Ib ...
'', he states:


Modern theories


William Petty

Sir
William Petty Sir William Petty Royal Society, FRS (26 May 1623 – 16 December 1687) was an English economist, physician, scientist and philosopher. He first became prominent serving Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth of England, Commonwealth in Ireland ...
was the first modern writer to take note of the division of labour, showing its existence and usefulness in Dutch
shipyard A shipyard, also called a dockyard or boatyard, is a place where ships are shipbuilding, built and repaired. These can be yachts, military vessels, cruise liners or other cargo or passenger ships. Dockyards are sometimes more associated with ...
s. Classically, the workers in a
shipyard A shipyard, also called a dockyard or boatyard, is a place where ships are shipbuilding, built and repaired. These can be yachts, military vessels, cruise liners or other cargo or passenger ships. Dockyards are sometimes more associated with ...
would build ships as units, finishing one before starting another. But the Dutch had it organised with several teams each doing the same tasks for successive ships. People with a particular task to do must have discovered new methods that were only later observed and justified by writers on
political economy Political economy is the study of how Macroeconomics, economic systems (e.g. Marketplace, markets and Economy, national economies) and Politics, political systems (e.g. law, Institution, institutions, government) are linked. Widely studied ph ...
. Petty also applied the principle to his survey of
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean, in Northwestern Europe, north-western Europe. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Grea ...
. His breakthrough was to divide up the work so that large parts of it could be done by people with no extensive training.


Bernard de Mandeville

Bernard de Mandeville discussed the matter in the second volume of ''
The Fable of the Bees ''The Fable of The Bees: or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits'' (1714) is a book by the Anglo-Dutch social philosopher Bernard Mandeville Bernard Mandeville, or Bernard de Mandeville (; 15 November 1670 – 21 January 1733), was an Anglo-Dut ...
'' (1714). This elaborates many matters raised by the original poem about a 'Grumbling Hive'. He says:


David Hume

- David Hume, A Treatise on Human Nature


Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau

In his introduction to ''The Art of the Pin-Maker'' (''Art de l'Épinglier'', 1761), du Monceau, Henri-Louis Duhamel. 1761. " Introduction." In ''Art de l'Épinglier'', by R. Réaumur, and A. de Ferchault. Paris: Saillant et Nyon.
Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau (20 July 1700, Paris13 August 1782, Paris), was a French physician, naval engineer and botanist. Biography Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau was born in Paris in 1700, the son of Alexandre Duhamel, lord of Denain ...
writes about the "division of this work": By "division of this work," du Monceau is referring to the subdivisions of the text describing the various trades involved in the pin making activity; this can also be described as a division of labour.


Adam Smith

In the first sentence of '' An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations'' (1776),
Adam Smith Adam Smith (baptized 1723 – 17 July 1790) was a Scottish economist and philosopher who was a pioneer in the thinking of political economy and key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment. Seen by some as "The Father of Economics"——— ...
foresaw the essence of industrialism by determining that division of labour represents a substantial increase in productivity. Like du Monceau, his example was the making of pins. Unlike
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, wikt:Πλάτων, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was a Greeks, Greek philosopher born in Athens during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece. He founded the Platonist school of thou ...
, Smith famously argued that the difference between a street porter and a philosopher was as much a consequence of the division of labour as its cause. Therefore, while for Plato the level of specialisation determined by the division of labour was externally determined, for Smith it was the dynamic engine of economic progress. However, in a further chapter of the same book, Smith criticised the division of labour saying it can lead to "the almost entire corruption and degeneracy of the great body of the people.…unless the government takes some pains to prevent it." The contradiction has led to some debate over Smith's opinion of the division of labour.
Alexis de Tocqueville Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, comte de Tocqueville (; 29 July 180516 April 1859), colloquially known as Tocqueville (), was a French Aristocracy (class), aristocrat, diplomat, Political science, political scientist, political philosopher and hi ...
agreed with Smith: "Nothing tends to materialize man, and to deprive his work of the faintest trace of mind, more than extreme division of labor."
Adam Ferguson Adam Ferguson, (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig ), also known as Scots Gaelic and Gaelic, is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European language family) nat ...
shared similar views to Smith, though was generally more negative. The specialisation and concentration of the workers on their single subtasks often leads to greater skill and greater productivity on their particular subtasks than would be achieved by the same number of workers each carrying out the original broad task, in part due to increased quality of production, but more importantly because of increased efficiency of production, leading to a higher nominal output of units produced per time unit. Smith uses the example of a production capability of an individual pin maker compared to a manufacturing business that employed 10 men:
One man draws out the wire; another straights it; a third cuts it; a fourth points it; a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on is a peculiar business; to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper; and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometimes perform two or three of them. I have seen a small manufactory of this kind, where ten men only were employed, and where some of them consequently performed two or three distinct operations. But though they were very poor, and therefore but indifferently accommodated with the necessary machinery, they could, when they exerted themselves, make among them about twelve pounds of pins in a day. There are in a pound upwards of four thousand pins of a middling size. Those ten persons, therefore, could make among them upwards of forty-eight thousand pins in a day. Each person, therefore, making a tenth part of forty-eight thousand pins, might be considered as making four thousand eight hundred pins in a day. But if they had all wrought separately and independently, and without any of them having been educated to this peculiar business, they certainly could not each of them have made twenty, perhaps not one pin in a day.
Smith saw the importance of matching skills with equipment—usually in the context of an
organisation An organization or organisation (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth English; American and British English spelling differences#-ise, -ize (-isation, -ization), see spelling differences), is an legal entity, entity—such as ...
. For example, pin makers were organised with one making the head, another the body, each using different equipment. Similarly, he emphasised a large number of skills, used in cooperation and with suitable equipment, were required to build a ship. In the modern economic discussion, the term ''
human capital Human capital is a concept used by social scientists to designate personal attributes considered useful in the production process. It encompasses employee knowledge, skill, skills, know-how, good health, and education. Human capital has a subst ...
'' would be used. Smith's insight suggests that the huge increases in productivity obtainable from
technology Technology is the application of knowledge to reach practical goals in a specifiable and Reproducibility, reproducible way. The word ''technology'' may also mean the product of such an endeavor. The use of technology is widely prevalent in me ...
or technological progress are possible because human and physical capital are matched, usually in an organisation. See also a short discussion of Adam Smith's theory in the context of business processes. Babbage wrote a seminal work "On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures" analysing perhaps for the first time the division of labour in factories.


Immanuel Kant

In the '' Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals'' (1785),
Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German Philosophy, philosopher and one of the central Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment thinkers. Born in Königsberg, Kant's comprehensive and systematic works in epistemolo ...
notes the value of the division of labour:
All crafts, trades and arts have profited from the division of labour; for when each worker sticks to one particular kind of work that needs to be handled differently from all the others, he can do it better and more easily than when one person does everything. Where work is not thus differentiated and divided, where everyone is a jack-of-all-trades, the crafts remain at an utterly primitive level.


Karl Marx

Marx argued that increasing the specialisation may also lead to workers with poorer overall skills and a lack of enthusiasm for their work. He described the process as alienation: workers become more and more specialised and work becomes repetitive, eventually leading to complete alienation from the process of production. The worker then becomes "depressed spiritually and physically to the condition of a machine." Additionally, Marx argued that the division of labour creates less-skilled workers. As the work becomes more specialised, less training is needed for each specific job, and the workforce, overall, is less skilled than if one worker did one job entirely. Among Marx's theoretical contributions is his sharp distinction between the economic and the social division of labour. That is, some forms of labour co-operation are purely due to "technical necessity", but others are a result of a "social control" function related to a class and status hierarchy. If these two divisions are conflated, it might appear as though the existing division of labour is technically inevitable and immutable, rather than (in good part) socially constructed and influenced by power relationships. He also argues that in a
communist Communism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around ...
society, the division of labour is transcended, meaning that balanced human development occurs where people fully express their nature in the variety of creative work that they do.


Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson

Henry David Thoreau Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817May 6, 1862) was an American naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher. A leading Transcendentalism, transcendentalist, he is best known for his book ''Walden'', a reflection upon simple living in natural su ...
criticised the division of labour in ''
Walden ''Walden'' (; first published in 1854 as ''Walden; or, Life in the Woods'') is a book by American transcendentalism, transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau. The text is a reflection upon the author's simple living in natural surroundings. ...
'' (1854), on the basis that it removes people from a sense of connectedness with society and with the world at large, including nature. He claimed that the average man in a civilised society is less wealthy, in practice than one in "savage" society. The answer he gave was that
self-sufficiency Self-sustainability and self-sufficiency are overlapping states of being in which a person or organization needs little or no help from, or interaction with, others. Self-sufficiency entails the self being enough (to fulfill needs), and a self-s ...
was enough to cover one's basic needs. Thoreau's friend and mentor,
Ralph Waldo Emerson Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803April 27, 1882), who went by his middle name Waldo, was an American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, abolitionism, abolitionist, and poet who led the Transcendentalism, transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th ...
, criticised the division of labour in his "
The American Scholar "The American Scholar" was a speech given by Ralph Waldo Emerson on August 31, 1837, to the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard College at the First Parish in Cambridge in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was invited to speak in recognition of his gro ...
" speech: a widely informed,
holistic Holism () is the idea that various systems (e.g. physical, biological, social) should be viewed as wholes, not merely as a collection of parts. The term "holism" was coined by Jan Smuts in his 1926 book ''Holism and Evolution''."holism, n." OED Onl ...
citizenry is vital for the spiritual and physical health of the country.


Émile Durkheim

In his seminal work, '' The Division of Labor in Society'',
Émile Durkheim David Émile Durkheim ( or ; 15 April 1858 – 15 November 1917) was a French sociologist. Durkheim formally established the academic discipline of sociology and is commonly cited as one of the principal architects of modern social science ...
observes that the division of labour appears in all societies and positively correlates with societal advancement because it increases as a society progresses. Durkheim arrived at the same conclusion regarding the positive effects of the division of labour as his theoretical predecessor,
Adam Smith Adam Smith (baptized 1723 – 17 July 1790) was a Scottish economist and philosopher who was a pioneer in the thinking of political economy and key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment. Seen by some as "The Father of Economics"——— ...
. In ''The Wealth of Nations'', Smith observes the division of labour results in "a proportionable increase of the productive powers of labour." While they shared this belief, Durkheim believed the division of labour applied to all "biological organisms generally," while Smith believed this law applied "only to human societies."Jones, Robert. 1986. ''Emile Durkheim: An Introduction to Four Major Works.'' Beverly Hills, CA:
Sage Publications SAGE Publishing, formerly SAGE Publications, is an American independent business, independent publishing company founded in 1965 in New York by Sara Miller McCune and now based in Newbury Park, California. It publishes more than 1,000 journal ...
. Print.
This difference may result from the influence of
Charles Darwin Charles Robert Darwin ( ; 12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist, geologist, and biologist, widely known for his contributions to evolutionary biology. His proposition that all species of life have descended ...
's ''
On the Origin of Species ''On the Origin of Species'' (or, more completely, ''On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life''),The book's full original title was ''On the Origin of Species by Me ...
'' on Durkheim's writings. For example, Durkheim observed an apparent relationship between "the functional specialisation of the parts of an organism" and "the extent of that organism's evolutionary development," which he believed "extended the scope of the division of labour so as to make its origins contemporaneous with the origins of life itself…implying that its conditions must be found in the essential properties of all organised matter." Since Durkheim's division of labour applied to all organisms, he considered it a "
natural law Natural law ( la, ius naturale, ''lex naturalis'') is a system of law based on a close observation of human nature, and based on values intrinsic to human nature that can be Deductive reasoning, deduced and applied independently of positive law ( ...
" and worked to determine whether it should be embraced or resisted by first analysing its functions. Durkheim hypothesised that the division of labour fosters
social solidarity ''Solidarity'' is an awareness of shared interests, objectives, standards, and sympathies creating a psychological sense of unity of groups or classes. It is based on class collaboration.''Merriam Webster'', http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictio ...
, yielding "a wholly moral phenomenon" that ensures "mutual relationships" among individuals.Durkheim, Emile. 8931997. '' The Division of Labor in Society.'' New York: The Free Press. Print. As social solidarity cannot be directly quantified, Durkheim indirectly studies solidarity by "classify ngthe different types of law to find...the different types of social solidarity which correspond to it." Durkheim categorises: Anderson, Margaret L. and Howard F. Taylor. 2008. ''Sociology: Understanding a Diverse Society.'' Belmont, CA:
Thomson Wadsworth Cengage Group is an American educational Education is a purposeful activity directed at achieving certain aims, such as transmitting knowledge or fostering skills and character traits. These aims may include the development of understand ...
. Print.
*
criminal law Criminal law is the body of law that relates to crime. It prescribes conduct perceived as threatening, harmful, or otherwise endangering to the property, health, safety, and welfare, moral welfare of people inclusive of one's self. Most crimin ...
s and their respective punishments as promoting mechanical solidarity, a sense of unity resulting from individuals engaging in similar work who hold shared backgrounds, traditions, and values; and * civil laws as promoting organic solidarity, a society in which individuals engage in different kinds of work that benefit society and other individuals. Durkheim believes that
organic solidarity In sociology, mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity are the two types of solidarity, social solidarity that were formulated by Émile Durkheim, introduced in his ''The Division of Labour in Society, Division of Labour in Society'' (1893) as p ...
prevails in more advanced societies, while mechanical solidarity typifies less developed societies. He explains that in societies with more mechanical solidarity, the diversity and division of labour is much less, so individuals have a similar worldview. Similarly, Durkheim opines that in societies with more organic solidarity, the diversity of occupations is greater, and individuals depend on each other more, resulting in greater benefits to society as a whole. Durkheim's work enabled
social science Social science is one of the branches of science, devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refer to the field of sociology, the o ...
to progress more efficiently "in…the understanding of human social behavior."


Ludwig von Mises

Marx's theories, including his negative claims regarding the division of labour, have been criticised by the Austrian economists, notably
Ludwig von Mises Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises (; 29 September 1881 – 10 October 1973) was an Austrian School economist, historian, logician, and sociologist. Mises wrote and lectured extensively on the societal contributions of classical liberalism. He ...
. The primary argument is that the economic gains accruing from the division of labour far outweigh the costs, thus developing on the thesis that division of labor leads to cost efficiencies. It is argued that it is fully possible to achieve balanced human development within
capitalism Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets, price system, pr ...
and alienation is downplayed as mere romantic fiction. According to Mises, the idea has led to the concept of
mechanization Mechanization is the process of changing from working largely or exclusively by hand or with animals to doing that work with machinery. In an early engineering text a machine is defined as follows: In some fields, mechanization includes the ...
in which a specific task is performed by a mechanical device, instead of an individual labourer. This method of production is significantly more effective in both yield and
cost-effectiveness Cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) is a form of economic analysis that compares the relative costs and outcomes (effects) of different courses of action. Cost-effectiveness analysis is distinct from cost–benefit analysis, which assigns a monet ...
, and utilises the division of labour to the fullest extent possible. Mises saw the very idea of a task being performed by a specialised mechanical device as being the greatest achievement of division of labour.


Friedrich A. Hayek

In "
The Use of Knowledge in Society "The Use of Knowledge in Society" is a scholarly article written by economist Friedrich Hayek, first published in the September 1945 issue of ''The American Economic Review''. Written (along with ''The Meaning of Competition'') as a rebuttal to f ...
", Friedrich A. Hayek states:


Globalisation and global division of labour

The issue reaches its broadest scope in the controversies about
globalisation Globalization, or globalisation (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth English; American and British English spelling differences#-ise, -ize (-isation, -ization), see spelling differences), is the process of foreign relation ...
, which is often interpreted as a euphemism for the expansion of
international trade International trade is the exchange of Capital (economics), capital, goods, and Service (economics), services across international borders or territories because there is a need or want of goods or services. (see: World economy) In most countr ...
based on
comparative advantage In an economic model, agent (economics), agents have a comparative advantage over others in producing a particular Goods (economics), good if they can produce that good at a lower relative opportunity cost or autarky price, i.e. at a lower relative ...
. This would mean that countries specialise in the work they can do at the lowest relative cost measured in terms of the
opportunity cost In microeconomic theory, the opportunity cost of a particular activity is the value or benefit given up by engaging in that activity, relative to engaging in an alternative activity. More effective it means if you chose one activity (for exampl ...
of not using resources for other work, compared to the opportunity costs experienced by countries. Critics, however, allege that international specialisation cannot be explained sufficiently in terms of "the work nations do best", rather that this specialisation is guided more by
commercial Commercial may refer to: * a dose of advertising conveyed through media (such as - for example - radio or television) ** Radio advertisement ** Television advertisement * (adjective for:) commerce, a system of voluntary exchange of products and s ...
criteria, which favour some countries over others. The
OECD The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; french: Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques, ''OCDE'') is an intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental organisation with 38 member countries ...
advised in June 2005 that: Few studies have taken place regarding the global division of labour. Information can be drawn from ILO and national statistical offices. In one study, Deon Filmer estimated that 2.474 billion people participated in the global non-domestic
labour force The workforce or labour force is a concept referring to the Pooling (resource management), pool of human beings either in employment or in unemployment. It is generally used to describe those working for a single types of companies, company or ...
in the mid-1990s. Of these: * around 15%, or 379 million people, worked in the industry; * a third, or 800 million worked in services and * over 40%, or 1,074 million, in agriculture. The majority of workers in industry and services were wage and salary earners—58 percent of the industrial workforce and 65 percent of the services workforce. But a large portion was self-employed or involved in family labour. Filmer suggests the total of employees worldwide in the 1990s was about 880 million, compared with around a billion working on their own account on the land (mainly peasants), and some 480 million working on their own account in industry and services. The 2007 ILO Global Employment Trends Report indicated that services have surpassed agriculture for the first time in human history:
In 2006 the service sector’s share of global employment overtook agriculture for the first time, increasing from 39.5 to 40 percent. Agriculture decreased from 39.7 percent to 38.7 percent. The industry sector accounted for 21.3 percent of total employment.


Contemporary theories

In the modern world, those specialists most preoccupied in their work with theorising about the division of labour are those involved in
management Management (or managing) is the administration of an organization, whether it is a business, a nonprofit organization, or a government body. It is the art and science of managing resources of the business. Management includes the activities ...
and
organisation An organization or organisation (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth English; American and British English spelling differences#-ise, -ize (-isation, -ization), see spelling differences), is an legal entity, entity—such as ...
. In general, in capitalist economies, such things are not decided consciously. Different people try different things, and that which is most effective cost-wise (produces the most and best output with the least input) will generally be adopted. Often, techniques that work in one place or time do not work as well in another.


Styles of division of labour

Two styles of management that are seen in modern organisations are control and commitment:McAlister-Kizzier, Donna. 2007. "Division of Labor." ''Encyclopedia of Business and Finance'' (2nd ed.). – via Encyclopedia.com. 1 December 2014 # Control management, the style of the past, is based on the principles of job specialisation and the division of labour. This is the assembly-line style of job specialisation, where employees are given a very narrow set of tasks or one specific task. # Commitment division of labour, the style of the future, is oriented on including the employee and building a level of internal commitment towards accomplishing tasks. Tasks include more responsibility and are coordinated based on expertise rather than a formal position. Job specialisation is advantageous in developing employee
expert An expert is somebody who has a broad and deep understanding and competence in terms of knowledge, skill and experience through practice and education Education is a purposeful activity directed at achieving certain aims, such as ...
ise in a field and boosting organisational production. However, disadvantages of job specialisation included limited employee skill, dependence on entire department fluency, and employee discontent with repetitive tasks.


Labour hierarchy

It is widely accepted among economists and social theorists that the division of labour is, to a great extent, inevitable within capitalist societies, simply because no one can do all tasks at once. Labour
hierarchy A hierarchy (from Greek: , from , 'president of sacred rites') is an arrangement of items (objects, names, values, categories, etc.) that are represented as being "above", "below", or "at the same level as" one another. Hierarchy is an important ...
is a very common feature of the modern capitalist workplace structure, and the way these hierarchies are structured can be influenced by a variety of different factors, including: * Size: as organisations increase in size, there is a correlation in the rise of the division of labour. * Cost: cost limits small organisations from dividing their labour responsibilities. * Development of new technology: technological developments have led to a decrease in the amount of job specialisation in organisations as new technology makes it easier for fewer employees to accomplish a variety of tasks and still enhance production. New technology has also been helpful in the flow of information between departments helping to reduce the feeling of department isolation. It is often argued that the most equitable principle in allocating people within hierarchies is that of true (or proven) competency or ability. This concept of
meritocracy Meritocracy (''merit'', from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latiu ...
could be read as an
explanation An explanation is a set of Statement (logic), statements usually constructed to description, describe a set of facts which clarifies the causality, causes, wiktionary:context, context, and Logical consequence, consequences of those facts. It may ...
or as a justification of why a division of labour is the way it is. This claim, however, is often disputed by various sources, particularly: *
Marxists Marxism is a Left-wing politics, left-wing to Far-left politics, far-left method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a Materialism, materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understand S ...
claim hierarchy is created to support the power structures in capitalist societies which maintain the capitalist class as the owner of the labour of workers, in order to exploit it.
Anarchists Anarchism is a political philosophy and Political movement, movement that is skeptical of all justifications for authority and seeks to abolish the institutions it claims maintain unnecessary coercion and Social hierarchy, hierarchy, typi ...
often add to this analysis by defending that the presence of coercive hierarchy in any form is contrary to the values of liberty and equality. * Anti-imperialists see the globalised labour hierarchy between
first world The concept of First World originated during the Cold War and comprised countries that were under the influence of the United States and the rest of NATO and opposed the Soviet Union and/or communism during the Cold War. Since the collapse of ...
and
third world The term "Third World" arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either NATO or the Warsaw Pact. The United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Western European nations and their allies represented the "First W ...
countries necessitated by companies (through
unequal exchange Unequal exchange is used primarily in Marxist economics, but also in ecological economics (more specifically also as ecologically unequal exchange), to denote forms of exploitation hidden in or underwriting trade. Originating, in the wake o ...
) that create a labor aristocracy by exploiting the poverty of workers in the developing world, where wages are much lower. These increased profits enable these companies to pay higher wages and taxes in the developed world (which fund
welfare Welfare, or commonly social welfare, is a type of government support intended to ensure that members of a society can meet Basic needs, basic human needs such as food and shelter. Social security may either be synonymous with welfare, or refe ...
in first world countries), thus creating a working class satisfied with their standard of living and not inclined to revolution. This concept is further explored in
dependency theory Dependency theory is the notion that resources flow from a " periphery" of poor and underdeveloped states to a " core" of wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former. A central contention of dependency theory is that poor ...
, notably by Samir Amin and Zak Cope.


Limitations

Adam Smith Adam Smith (baptized 1723 – 17 July 1790) was a Scottish economist and philosopher who was a pioneer in the thinking of political economy and key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment. Seen by some as "The Father of Economics"——— ...
famously said in ''
The Wealth of Nations ''An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations'', generally referred to by its shortened title ''The Wealth of Nations'', is the ''Masterpiece, magnum opus'' of the Scottish people, Scottish economist and moral philosopher Ada ...
'' that the division of labour is limited by the extent of the market. This is because it is by the exchange that each person can be specialised in their work and yet still have access to a wide range of goods and services. Hence, reductions in barriers to exchange lead to increases in the division of labour and so help to drive economic growth. Limitations to the division of labour have also been related to coordination and transportation costs. There can be motivational advantages to a reduced division of labour (which has been termed ‘
job enlargement Job enlargement means increasing the scope of a employment, job through extending the range of its job duties and Moral responsibility, responsibilities generally within the same level and periphery. Job enlargement involves combining various act ...
’ and '
job enrichment Job enrichment is a method of motivating employees where a job is designed to have interesting and challenging tasks which can require more skill and can increase pay. Origin Frederick Herzberg, an American psychologist, originally developed the ...
'). Jobs that are too specialised in a narrow range of tasks are said to result in demotivation due to boredom and alienation. Hence, a Taylorist approach to work design contributed to worsened industrial relations. There are also limitations to the division of labour (and the division of work) that result from
workflow A workflow consists of an orchestrated and repeatable pattern of activity, enabled by the systematic organization of resources into processes that transform materials, provide services, or process information. It can be depicted as a sequence of ...
variations and uncertainties. These help to explain issues in modern work organisation, such as task consolidations in
business process re-engineering Business process re-engineering (BPR) is a business management strategy originally pioneered in the early 1990s, focusing on the analysis and design of workflow A workflow consists of an orchestrated and repeatable pattern of activity, enabled ...
and the use of multi-skilled work teams. For instance, one stage of a production process may temporarily work at a slower pace, forcing other stages to slow down. One answer to this is to make some portion of resources mobile between stages so that those resources must be capable of undertaking a wider range of tasks. Another is to consolidate tasks so that they are undertaken one after another by the same workers and other resources. Stocks between stages can also help to reduce the problem to some extent but are costly and can hamper quality control. Modern
flexible manufacturing system A flexible manufacturing system (FMS) is a manufacturing system in which there is some amount of Flexibility (engineering), flexibility that allows the system to react in case of changes, whether predicted or unpredicted. This flexibility is gen ...
s require both flexible machines and flexible workers. In project-based work, the coordination of resources is a difficult issue for the
project manager A project manager is a professional in the field of project management. Project managers have the responsibility of the planning, procurement and execution of a project, in any undertaking that has a defined scope, defined start and a defined fi ...
as project schedules and resulting resource bookings are based on estimates of task durations and so are subject to subsequent revisions. Again, consolidating tasks so that they are undertaken consecutively by the same resources and having resources available that can be called on at short-notice from other tasks can help to reduce such problems, though at the cost of reduced specialisation. There are also advantages in a reduced division of labour where knowledge would otherwise have to be transferred between stages. For example, having a single person deal with a customer query means that only that one person has to be familiar with the customer's details. It is also likely to result in the query being handled faster due to the elimination of delays in passing the query between different people.


Gendered division of labour

The clearest exposition of the principles of sexual division of labour across the full range of human societies can be summarised by a large number of logically complementary implicational constraints of the following form: if women of childbearing ages in a given community tend to do X (e.g., preparing soil for
planting Sowing is the process of planting seeds. An area or object that has had seeds planted in it will be described as a sowed or sown area. Plants which are usually sown Among the major field crops, oats, wheat Wheat is a Poaceae, grass wid ...
) they will also do Y (e.g., the planting); while for men the logical reversal in this example would be that if men plant, they will prepare the soil. White, Brudner, and Burton's (1977) "Entailment Theory and Method: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of the Sexual Division of Labor", using statistical
entailment Logical consequence (also entailment) is a fundamental concept in logic, which describes the relationship between statement (logic), statements that hold true when one statement logically ''follows from'' one or more statements. A Validity (lo ...
analysis, shows that tasks more frequently chosen by women in these order relations are those more convenient in relation to child rearing. This type of finding has been replicated in a variety of studies, including those on modern industrial economies. These entailments do not restrict how much work for any given task could be done by men (e.g., in
cooking Cooking, cookery, or culinary arts is the art, science and craft of using heat to Outline of food preparation, prepare food for consumption. Cooking techniques and ingredients vary widely, from grilling food over an open fire to using electric ...
) or by women (e.g., in clearing forests), but are only least-effort or role-consistent tendencies. To the extent that women clear forests for agriculture, for example, they tend to do the entire agricultural sequence of tasks on those clearings. In theory, these types of constraints could be removed by provisions of child care, but
ethnographic Ethnography (from Greek language, Greek ''ethnos'' "folk, people, nation" and ''grapho'' "I write") is a branch of anthropology and the systematic study of individual cultures. Ethnography explores cultural phenomena from the point of view ...
examples are lacking.


Industrial organisational psychology

Job satisfaction has been shown to improve as an employee is given the task of a specific job. Students who have received
PhDs A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD, Ph.D., or DPhil; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area ( ...
in a chosen field later report increased satisfaction compared to their previous jobs. This can be attributed to their high levels of specialisation. The higher the training needed for the specialised job position, the higher is the level of job satisfaction as well, although many highly specialised jobs can be monotonous and produce high rates of burnout periodically.


Division of work

In contrast to the division of labour, a division of work refers to the division of a large task, contract, or project into smaller tasks—each with a separate schedule within the overall project schedule. Division of labour, instead, refers to the allocation of tasks to individuals or organisations according to the skills and/or equipment those people or organisations possess. Often division of labour and division of work are both part of the
economic activity Economics () is the social science that studies the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of goods and services. Economics focuses on the behaviour and intera ...
within an industrial nation or organisation.


Disaggregated work

A job divided into elemental parts is sometimes called "disaggregated work". Workers specialising in particular parts of the job are called professionals. The workers doing a portion of a non-recurring work may be called contractors,
freelancer ''Freelance'' (sometimes spelled ''free-lance'' or ''free lance''), ''freelancer'', or ''freelance worker'', are terms commonly used for a person who is self-employment, self-employed and not necessarily committed to a particular employer long- ...
s, or
temporary work Temporary work or temporary employment (also called gigs) refers to an employment situation where the working arrangement is limited to a certain period of time based on the needs of the employing organization. Temporary employees are sometimes ...
ers. Modern communication technologies, particularly the
Internet The Internet (or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices. It is a '' network of networks'' that consists of private, p ...
, gave rise to the
sharing economy In capitalism, the sharing economy is a socio-economic system built around the sharing of resources. It often involves a way of purchasing goods and services that differs from the traditional business model of companies hiring employees to produce ...
, which is orchestrated by
online marketplace An online marketplace (or online e-commerce marketplace) is a type of e-commerce website where product or service information is provided by multiple third parties. Online marketplaces are the primary type of multichannel ecommerce and can be a way ...
s for various kinds of disaggregated work.


See also

*
Economies of scale In microeconomics, economies of scale are the cost advantages that enterprises obtain due to their scale of operation, and are typically measured by the amount of Productivity, output produced per unit of time. A decrease in unit cost, cost per u ...
*
Complex society A complex society is a concept that is shared by a range of disciplines including anthropology, archaeology, history and sociology to describe a stage of social formation. The concept was formulated by scholars attempting to understand how modern ...
*
Economic sector One classical breakdown of economic activity distinguishes three-sector model, three sectors: * Primary sector of the economy, Primary: involves the retrieval and production of raw-material commodity, commodities, such as corn, coal, wood or ...
* Family economy *
Fordism Fordism is a manufacturing technology that serves as the basis of modernity, modern economic and social systems in industrialized, standardized mass production and mass consumption. The concept is named after Henry Ford. It is used in social theor ...
* New international division of labour *
Productive and unproductive labour Productive and unproductive labour are concepts that were used in classical political economy Political economy is the study of how Macroeconomics, economic systems (e.g. Marketplace, markets and Economy, national economies) and Politics, p ...
*
Price system In economics Economics () is the social science that studies the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of goods and services. Economics focuses on the behav ...
*
Surplus product Surplus product (german: Mehrprodukt, links=no) is an economic concept explicitly theorised by Karl Marx in his critique of political economy. Roughly speaking, it is the extra goods produced above the amount needed for a community of workers to ...
*
Temporary work Temporary work or temporary employment (also called gigs) refers to an employment situation where the working arrangement is limited to a certain period of time based on the needs of the employing organization. Temporary employees are sometimes ...
*
Urbanisation Urbanization (or urbanisation) refers to the population shift from Rural area, rural to urban areas, the corresponding decrease in the proportion of people living in rural areas, and the ways in which societies adapt to this change. It is predo ...
*
Industrialisation Industrialisation (American and British English spelling differences, alternatively spelled industrialization) is the period of social and economic change that transforms a human group from an agrarian society into an industrial society. This ...
*
Mechanization Mechanization is the process of changing from working largely or exclusively by hand or with animals to doing that work with machinery. In an early engineering text a machine is defined as follows: In some fields, mechanization includes the ...
*
Newly industrialized country The category of newly industrialized country (NIC), newly industrialized economy (NIE) or middle income country is a Socioeconomics, socioeconomic Categorization, classification applied to several countries around the world by Political science, p ...


References


Further reading

* Becker, Gary S. 1991. "Division of Labor in Households and Families." Ch. 2 in '' A Treatise on the Family''.
Harvard University Press Harvard University Press (HUP) is a publishing house established on January 13, 1913, as a division of Harvard University, and focused on academic publishing. It is a member of the Association of American University Presses. After the retirem ...
, . * —— 1985. "Human Capital, Effort, and the Sexual Division of Labor." ''
Journal of Labor Economics A journal, from the Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French: ) was the language spoken in most of the northern half of France from approximately the 8th to the 14th centuries. Rather than a unified language, Old French was a linkage of Ro ...
'' 3(1.2):S33–S58. * Braverman, Harry. 1974. '' Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century''. Monthly Review Press. * Coontz, Stephanie, and Peta Henderson. ''Women's Work, Men's Property: The Origins of Gender and Class''. * * Durkheim, Émile. 1893. ''
The Division of Labour in Society ''The Division of Labour in Society'' (french: De la division du travail social) is the doctoral dissertation of the French sociologist Émile Durkheim, published in 1893. It was influential in advancing sociology, sociological theories and thou ...
''. * Emerson, Ralph Waldo. "
The American Scholar "The American Scholar" was a speech given by Ralph Waldo Emerson on August 31, 1837, to the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard College at the First Parish in Cambridge in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was invited to speak in recognition of his gro ...
." * Filmer, Deon. "Estimating the World at Work" (a background report). * Florida, Richard. 2002. '' The Rise of the Creative Class''. * —— ''The Flight of the Creative Class''. * Froebel, F., J. Heinrichs, and O. Krey. ''The New International Division of Labour''. Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press Cambridge University Press is the university press of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII of England, King Henry VIII in 1534, it is the oldest university press in the world. It is also the King's Printer. Cambr ...
. * Gintis, Herbert, Samuel Bowles, Robert T. Boyd, and Ernst Feghr. ''Moral Sentiments and Material Interests: The Foundations of Cooperation in Economic Life''. * Goodin, Robert E., James Mahmud Rice, Antti Parpo, and Lina Eriksson. 2008. "Household Regimes Matter." Pp. 197–257 in '' Discretionary Time: A New Measure of Freedom''. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. . Cambridge ID
9780521709514
* Gorz, André. ''The Division of Labour: The Labour Process and Class Struggle in Modern Capitalism''. * Groenewegen, Peter. 1987. "division of labour." Pp. 901–07 in '' The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics'' 1. * Heartfield, James. 2001.
The Economy of Time
" ''Cultural Trends'' 43/44:155–59 * Ollman, Bertell. ''Sexual and Social Revolution''. * Rattansi, Ali. ''Marx and the Division of Labour''. * Reisman, George. 9901998
''Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics''
Laguna Hills, CA: TJS Books. . * Solow, Robert M., and Jean-Philippe Touffut, eds. 2010.
The Shape of the Division of Labour: Nations, Industries and Households
'. Cheltenham, UK:
Edward Elgar Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet, (; 2 June 1857 – 23 February 1934) was an English composer, many of whose works have entered the British and international classical concert repertoire. Among his best-known compositions are orchestr ...
. ** Contributors:
Bina Agarwal Bina Agarwal is an Indian development economist and Professor of Development Economics and Environment at the Global Development Institute at The University of Manchester The University of Manchester is a public university, public research ...
, Martin Baily, Jean-Louis Beffa, Richard N. Cooper, Jan Fagerberg,
Elhanan Helpman Elhanan Helpman (Hebrew: אלחנן הלפמן, born March 30, 1946) is an Israeli economist An economist is a professional and practitioner in the social sciences, social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, deve ...
, Shelly Lundberg, Valentina Meliciani, and Peter Nunnenkamp. * Rothbard, Murray. 19 March 2018.
Freedom, Inequality, Primitivism and the Division of Labor
" ''
Mises Institute Ludwig von Mises Institute for Austrian Economics, or Mises Institute, is a libertarian Libertarianism (from french: libertaire, "libertarian"; from la, libertas, "freedom") is a political philosophy that upholds liberty as a core value ...
''. Retrieved 2 July 2020. * von Mises, Ludwig.
Human Society: The Division of Labor
" Pp. 157–58 in ''Human Action: A Treatise on Economics''''.'' * ——
Human Society: The Ricardian Law of Association
" Pp. 158–60 in ''Human Action: A Treatise on Economics''. * Stigler, George J. 1951. "The Division of Labor is Limited by the Extent of the Market." ''
Journal of Political Economy The ''Journal of Political Economy'' is a monthly peer-reviewed academic journal published by the University of Chicago Press. Established by James Laurence Laughlin in 1892, it covers both economic theory, theoretical and econometrics, empirical ...
'' 59(3):185–93. *''
World Development Report The World Development Report (WDR) is an annual report published since 1978 by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) or World Bank. Each WDR provides in-depth analysis of a specific aspect of economic development. Past r ...
1995''. Washington, DC:
World Bank The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans and Grant (money), grants to the governments of Least developed countries, low- and Developing country, middle-income countries for the purpose of pursuing capital pro ...
. 1996.


External links


Summary of Smith's example of pin-making

Conference: "The New International Division of Labour"
Speakers: Bina Agarwal, Martin Baily, Jean-Louis Beffa, Richard N. Cooper, Jan Fagerberg, Elhanan Helpman, Shelly Lundberg, Valentina Meliciani, Peter Nunnenkamp. Recorded in 2009. {{DEFAULTSORT:Division Of Labour Economic anthropology Industrial history Labor history Marxism Modes of production Production economics Industry (economics) concepts