The Division of Labor: An Effective Mean to Prosperity


Sydney Kobell – Period 7

Labor has always been the foundation of a stable, thriving economy. Labor means trade, money, jobs, and success. Without labor, a state and its citizens would have no source of income and would not be able to attain prosperity. Due to the great effect that labor has on the economy, throughout history, the state and its people have worked at making labor bigger, more diverse, and more advanced. By doing this, increasing success has been found through labor by the state. But in Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, one of the greatest, genius, most effective changes in labor was introduced to the world: the division of labor. This is the practice of dividing the many parts of labor among different workers in order to increase productivity and improve efficiency. At first glance, the division of labor may seem absolutely dreadful, especially to workers, and it may seem that it only provides success to big business owners and corporations. After all, who would want to do the same repetitious, boring job all day long? The answer is someone who wants to find success in his employment. The division of labor has been proven by Smith to be highly effective in many areas of labor and good for both human beings and society as a whole. This division is in unison with Aristotle’s writings of the function of man and state as well, because it increases profits, helps the economy, and leads to the fulfilling of man’s and the state’s function, which is the good for all.

First, we must consider how the division of labor is actually effective in labor practices. The effects of the division of labor is claimed by Smith to be, “The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is any where directed, or applied.” But how is this true? A great example is found in Smith’s observations of the pin-maker. Smith argues that if a pin-maker creates a pin fully through his own skills and doings, he will scarcely be able to make one pin a day. Performing all of the many tasks of creating a single pin is not time efficient and the worker must learn every job of creating the pin, leading to inefficiency. But when the work of making a pin is divided into several branches of particular trades, pin production can increase in scores. First, one worker draws out the wire. Next, a different worker straightens it. The next worker cuts it and the fourth worker points it. These short and time-efficient jobs are the basis of the division of labor. After the pin has been sent through roughly eighteen branches of specific workers and operations, the time of production is small and the yield is large. To support his theory of the effectiveness of the division of labor, Smith calls to mind a specific pin-making factory in which ten workers are employed. By the end of the day after the workers exerted themselves in their unique job necessarily, roughly forty-eight thousand pins were created. It can therefore be said that each person made four thousand and eight hundred pins in a day. This great yield would have been impossible if the workers had performed separately and independently. In short, workers who labor independently are only able to create very low, ineffective yields of products while workers who are divided into specific task branches are able to efficiently produce a high yield of effective, error-free products.

As the division of labor has been proven to increased productivity and efficiency in labor, it is therefore proven to increase profit and employment, which serves to fulfill man’s and society’s function. But what are these functions and how is the division of labor effective in fulfilling them? As stated in The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle considers the function of man to be the contemplative life, or living in accordance with reason. It is widely agreed among men that happiness is a main goal of life and we must lead a good life. In accordance, Aristotle defines this happiness as fulfilling your function and achieving the contemplative life. And he believes that living a good life is finding the contemplative life. Now that we have defined the function of man, we find that it relates to the function of the state, which relates to the effectiveness of the division of labor. In Politics, Aristotle defines the purpose of the state as helping the citizens to fulfill their function. The state can then fulfill its function in many ways by helping its citizens fulfill their function. As the state is a natural thing, it is always there to help the people. It does this by decreasing poverty and unemployment, and increasing jobs and labor, all which enable people to fulfill their function. Through the division of labor, the economy is able to become much more productive and efficient. This means more money for businesses, workers, and therefore consumers. The division of labor also gives way to lowering unemployment because it requires many workers to perform specific tasks instead of just a few workers. For example, the pin-making factory originally only hired three or four people to make pins every day. But with the division of labor, the pin-making process is split into roughly eighteen separate parts of production, which is six times as many tasks as before, which means six times as many workers will now needed to be hired. But you must now be concerned about wages decreasing due to this influx of workers. Be not afraid, this increase in employment does not create a decrease in wages and here is why. Due to the efficiency and wellbeing of the products being produced by the eighteen fold employees, much more product is being produced and bought. The economy carries out its doings and the business receives more money from all of the goods being bought by consumers.

Aristotle also proves that the division of labor is effective through his definition of man as a political animal. By saying man is a political animal, Aristotle is saying that humans need to be with other humans in order to fulfill their function. Again, a perfect example of this is found in the pin-making factory. Humans are enabled to fulfill their function more easily when with other humans. The factory workers of the small factory that only employs three people are not surrounded with many people and are therefore unable to fulfill their function to the best of their ability. But when surrounded with other people through the division of labor, workers can more easily fulfill their function and carry out their jobs, which leads to their happiness and prosperity for all. As Aristotle considers the “final end” to be happiness, the division of labor has been proven to get us there.

All in all, the division of labor has been proven by both Adam Smith and Aristotle to be positively effective in society. As labor is such an important part of society, the division of labor has been greatly helpful in achieving widespread success for society and its citizens. Through the art of pin-making, Smith proves that the division of labor helps the economy and individual worker succeed by scores, while Aristotle shows that the division of labor helps the state and man fulfill their function. As Aristotle says that the end of the city is to allow human beings to live a good life, society is enabled to do this through the division of labor. This is because the division enables workers to fulfill their function, which hence fulfills the state’s function. Smith and Aristotle prove to us that the division of labor is completely good for human beings and society as a whole.


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