The Hunger Games: Division of Labor

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Maggie Tobolka Period 2

The world holds over seven billion people, each of which obtaining wants and needs that are constantly changing. Highly efficient production is critical in satisfying the endless desires and expectations of these citizens. These desires do not stop at the basic necessities of food, water, and shelter; they carry on to extravagant luxuries that continue to evolve as the materialistic world drastically grows. How can the world keep up with these high demands without falling behind in supply? This question is addressed by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations. Here, he describes “the abundance or scantiness of its annual supply must depend…upon the proportion between the number of those who are annually employed in useful labour, and that of those who are not so employed.”  Therefore, division of labor is the best strategy to utilize the skills of the individual workers. He defines it as breaking up a large task in to numerous smaller ones to increase the quantity and quality of work, along with the wealth of the nation. An example of this successful tactic is The Hunger Game’s total dictatorship. Under this dictatorship, the division of labor between each of the twelve districts works to supply the Capitol with these goods to increase the wealth of the nation.

Life of divided districts that use specialization and Capitol rule was not always the case for the civilians living in The Hunger Games series. Prior to this, modern day lifestyles and government policies were implemented. However, after an unexplained end of the world, a new world began to evolve, called Panem. Adam Smith states, “The annual labor of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessities and conveniences of life, which it annually consumes.” Likewise, the ruler of Panem, named President Snow, focused on recreation of civilization through labor. (1) In order to do so, Panem was divided into thirteen sections, called districts.  The most powerful of the sections was the Capitol which housed the government and those who were rich. The remaining twelve were distinguished as districts that spent their life fueling the lavish needs and desires of the Capitol through labor specialization. Each district was assigned an industry that was to be the common factor in all types of work. Specialization between each of the districts ensured a quick reformation of the world and a steady way to suffice the Capitol. This approach essentially reflects Adam Smith’s description of division of labor.  To signify how beneficial division of labor is, Smith reflects on the work of a pin-maker. He explains a man “not educated to this business, nor acquainted with the use of machinery employed in to, could scare, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin a day, and certainly could not make twenty.” Contrary to this, those who are educated in the process of pen making can produce twenty a day instead of one. In comparison to The Hunger Games, District One, for example, will have a higher productivity rate for their particular industry than District Two, because they have full knowledge of every aspect within their assignment.

Smith states the increase of quantity in production is a result of three circumstances. The first reason, Adam stated, was “by reducing every man’s business to some one simply operation, and by making this operation the sole employment of his life, necessarily increases very much the dexterity of the workman.”  District Two, for example, had an assigned industry of weaponry.  Within this district, the people are assigned tasks, which once put together, produce varies types of weapons. Because the job of each person is not extremely complex, the workers can become highly efficient in their duty, making their personal production rate extremely rapid. The combination of all the intensified personal rapid rates equals an overall rapid production rate in District Two. The second reason explained by Smith was, “the advantage which is gained by saving the time commonly lost in passing from one sort of work to another, is much greater than we should at first view be apt to imagine it.” The workers save time only being assigned a simply task as opposed to the creation of the whole weapon. The time spent transferring from one task to another, is time wasted because it decreases the overall quantity of production. The third and final reason described by Smith was “men are much more likely to discover easier and readier methods of attaining any object, when the whole attention of minds is directed towards that single object.” The workers of District Two have a better chance of finding an improvement in the production process after focusing on the same task constantly. If the worker had to focus on creating a whole gun, the chances of him finding advancements in the process is bound not to happen because his only focus is getting the job done.  Each of these factors, in consequence to the division of labor, adds to an increase of the world’s wealth.

Along with Adam Smith’s second reason for the increase of production, he points out working to complete a more complex task, such as a whole gun in District 12, not only decreases productivity, but also prevents the worker from improving his skill. It is stated that being “independent, therefore, of his deficiency in point of dexterity, this cause alone must always reduce considerably the quantity of work which he is capable of doing.” He means the worker creating the same gun over will begin to get “slothful and lazy” because he will need to change his tools and tasks on numerous occasions; thus, making him incapable of discovering improvements to increase the production process.

As previously stated, the Capitol is made up of the rich and the districts with the poor, some more extreme than others. Because each district worked to suffice the needs of the Capitol, they were ultimately working to increase the wealth of the nation instead of individual wealth. For example District Twelve, the poorest of all districts, was able to make ends meet through the division of labor because the Capitol makes use of their mining industry. Adam Smith says, “It is the great multiplication of the productions of all the different arts, in consequence of the division of labour, which occasions, in a well governed society, that universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people.” In the case of The Hunger Games, the “opulence” being extended is safety. As long as they did as they were supposed to do, the Capitol did not inflict direct harm to the district resulting in the participation of all districts.

It is impossible for one man to understand the creation of every object, from machinery to ink making, used in the process of making pens. Therefore, using division of labor to break up tasks between people, allows for this type of knowledge become obsolete. In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith summaries the benefits of division of labor as “each individual become[ing] more expert in his own peculiar branch, more work [being] done upon the whole, and the quantity of science is considerable increased by it.” The Hunger Games used specialization between districts, described by Smith, to, not only recreate the destroyed world, but to also supply the needs of the Capitol. Furthermore, in the series the Capitol’s wealth increased significantly because of this tactic. Today, our materialistic world sets up a high demand for goods. To keep the supply and demand at equilibrium, businesses should use all explanations of division of labor described by Adam Smith and implemented in The Hunger Games. This will allow them to increase their rate of production. In doing so, the wealth of the world will continue to increase along with the expansive expectations of society

1. “Panem,” The Hunger Games Wiki, December 9, 2014,



“Panem.” The Hunger Games Wiki. November 17, 2014. Accessed December 9, 2014.

Smith, Adam.An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Canaan ed. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909.



8 thoughts on “The Hunger Games: Division of Labor

  1. The way you related The Hunger Games and The Wealth of Nations was really neat, I never would have thought of that! It’s really cool to see how a historic document and a current movie relate to each other and to our society today.

  2. This is a really interesting connection that helped me understand the division of labor. I wonder if the Hunger Games is showing support for the division of labor because the division of labor is what allows the districts to take down the Capitol. With division of labor, the districts have more power than the Capitol ever thought was possible.

  3. This is good and interesting. It helps me understand Adam Smith by relating it to the hunger games, one of the best examples of the division of labor.

  4. This is a really good comparison between Smith’s division of labor and something easily relatable to modern day. To be able to make connections between authors’ writings can also add inside to how the world will react.

  5. I think using the Hunger Games was an extremely good idea because of the connections with Adam Smith and the division of labor. You’re ideas were very creative with including the districts and their wealth. Very well thought out. Good job

  6. I really enjoyed reading your article, Maggie. I think that the division of labor upon a workforce will benefit an economy overall; therefore, I would say that pursuing Adam Smith’s free-market policy is a smart and advantageous practice to follow. Also, I really love your connection to Hunger Games since it is something we can all relate back to. Overall, I think you did a great job explaining how a single person cannot complete a task on their own without the help of others.

  7. I really like the comparison between the Hunger Games and the Wealth of Nations!! That is such a compelling idea and I was very interested reading what you had to say, because I love the Hunger Games books and movies a lot. I agree; the division of labor does make a nation more efficient since everyone has a specific area to specialize in. Way to go!! 🙂

  8. I liked how you compared The Wealth of Nations to the Hunger Games. I had not thought about that application to the series. Although it seems that the division of labor would benefit the society by creating a more efficient system, Mises might argue that even though the districts are efficient in their own specilizations, the control that the Capitol has over them gives them no freedom. Overall I thought it was an interesting topic!

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