The division of labour Essay
The division of labour
But with five men specializing in their respective trades, they are not only able to provide sufficient pins for themselves, but also a surplus is generated from the mass production of the pin. As a result, manufacturers are able to keep up with the demands of a populated society. The division of labour clearly serves as an advantage to the economy. Smith reasons that the division of labour originates from man’s tendency to “barter” (317). Smith’s saying, “Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want” (318), accurately expresses man’s method of attaining his needs.
Man trades in self-interest but depends on others’ “co-operation and assistance” (318) to do so. The more man trades, the more wealth he acquires. Since the division on labour allows man to produce large amounts of surplus, he has the advantage to trade his surplus for a wealth of personal items. For example, a farmer who cultivates an excess amount of apples trades part of the surplus to a baker who in turn, provides the farmer with fresh bread. He also trades a large amount of the surplus to a grocer who pays him back with a large sum of money. The farmer becomes wealthy.
The quantities produced through the division of labour multiply exponentially. According to Karl Marx, the division of labour occurs between the bourgeois and the proletarian. The bourgeois are a wealthy, dominant class interested in the trade of markets. European colonization during the Middle Ages allowed new markets (like China’s gunpowder market or East India’s salt market) for the bourgeois to trade with. In Europe, the dominance of the “Modern Industry” caused the demands of the population “ever rising” (449). Consequently, the markets “kept ever growing” (449).
The bourgeois, experienced in international trade, were able to handle the growing European economy. Wealthy from their international trades, the bourgeois set up giant factories using proletarians, low class workers, for the manual labour of the production of goods. The large amount of accumulated labour allowed the bourgeois to keep up with the population’s growing demand. The influence of the modern industry forces the proletarians to work with machinery, “[obliterating] all distinctions of labour, and nearly everywhere reduces the wages to the same low level” (454).
To the bourgeois, the poor labourers “who must sell themselves piece-meal, are a commodity” (452). Due to the low wages paid by the bourgeois, the proletarians can only support their existence. Neither luxuries nor freedom are affordable. For example, culture-a luxury-is a proletarian’s “loss which he laments” (459). Without it, these labourers without option are forced “to act as a machine” (459). While the bourgeois have independence because of their wealth, the poor proletarians are “dependent and [have] no individuality” (458).
With their freedom denied by the bourgeois, the proletarians congregate nation-wide into a “Trade Union” to revolt against the selfish bourgeois-“The abolition of bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom is undoubtedly aimed at” (458). The bourgeois, threatened by the proletarians, have no choice but to grant them better living conditions. From the division of labour between the proletarians and the bourgeois, various characteristics of human nature are illustrated.
A main characteristic is the dependence which humans have for one another, no matter their societal status. In Communist Manifesto, we witness the bourgeois depend on the proletarians. The proletarians in turn depend on the bourgeois for a source of income. Another characteristic is the greed shown by the bourgeois. In an attempt to accumulate as much wealth as possible, the bourgeois pay the proletarians a smaller amount of what they deserve. The bourgeois care only for the proletarians’ existence because they provide the bourgeois with wealth. Humans also need freedom to live.
The consequences of denying freedom are dangerous, as witnessed with the proletarians-“they destroy imported wares that compete with their labour, the smash to pieces machinery, they set factories ablaze” until they “restore by force the vanished status of the workman of the Middle Ages” (453). Dependence, greed, and freedom are characteristics of human nature. If these characteristics are manipulated or ignored, destructive events could occur, as described by Marx in Communist Manifesto. The men, in search of an effective ideology, present their different views on human nature.
Human nature is the basis upon which the men reason the causes of the division of labour. Since their perspectives are not identical, their reasons of the causes of the division of labour also are not identical. Rousseau sees human nature as progressive. From basic instincts come the ability to reason, and from reason comes the division of society. The inequality in the division then leads to the slow corruption of the society. Smith, on the other hand, sees the division of labour as an advantage to the economy because it stems from an innate tendency to trade.
Marx sees the presence of the division of labour due to the innate vices that plague society. Out of greed, the bourgeois gain from the poor proletarians whom they depend on. But the proletarians retaliate and regain their essential freedom. While the men fail to seek a suitable ideology that gladly accommodates the vices of human nature, we witness the true power of its vices as it persists to plague man. Work Cited Cohen, Mitchell and Nicole Fermon, ed. Princeton Readings in Political Thought. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1996.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 14 September 2017
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