The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labour, and the greatest part of the skill, dexterity, and judgement, with which it is anywhere directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour.
Adam Smith (1776)
Owing to the extensive use of machinery and to division of labour, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him.
Karl Marx & Frederick Engles (1848/88)
In his Wealth of Nations Adam Smith elevated the accustomed separation of family chores to a pivotal place in society: efficiency is expedited by specialization, and
The notion that work is only about money seems part of a familiar distortion.
leads to wealth. The ‘division of labour’ served the intellectual passion of the Scottish Enlightenment well. Following
For a little on Hume’s idea of the self and how Hume was influenced.
writers were seeking to uncover the
Another aspect of Hume’s work, the fundamental distinction between impressions and ideas.
foundations of human society on which to build a resilient political edifice, one which would help the whole population thrive, and make it independent of both the aristocracy and royalty for its wealth and security. A century later the dire effects of taking Smith’s principle of division of labour towards its logical conclusion were becoming apparent. While the Communist Manifesto’s declamation rails against these effects, and has been hugely influential, it did not forward the analysis of the problem of human nature that Hume so perspicuously had identified, and upon which Smith was (maybe unsurely) able to build: what are these psychological
Trying to see what might be at the base of human relationships.
that underlie all societies and all strata of society, and that any proposed principles of politics or economics must therefore embrace in order to succeed?
Adam Smith started his famous work An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations with the quoted sentence. The Communist Manifesto appeared in German in the spring of 1848, largely written by Marx with the help of Engles; the final draft being by Marx. In the following 40 years there were innumerable translations and re-writings, an English version appeared in 1850. However, most English quotations, including this one, come from the 1888 translation by Samuel Moore, and checked by Engles (where he spells his name Frederick) and was published by Charles H. Kerr & Company in Chicago, the quote is on page 18 of that edition.
The photo shows a family, in a Vietnamese country kitchen, dividing the labour of preparing a meal.
Above, hovering on blue introduces a link: click to go, move away to stay.