The Division of Labor

Adam Smith’s Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations was published in 1776, and gives his descriptions of the things that are responsible for helping to build a nations’ wealth at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The first chapter speaks about the Division of Labor, which Smith states has been the cause of the greatest improvement in the increased productivity of labor. He gives the example of the pin-makers and their ability to increase productivity and output with a division of labor.  Each step in making a pin was performed by a different worker, allowing for a more efficient process and resulting in the creation of many more pins. If there was no division of labor and each man worked independently, they would not be able to produce the same number of pins. Therefore with the introduction of the division, no matter in what arena, there is a proportionable increase in the productive powers of labor. When a man is only responsible for completing one step in a process, his dexterity improves and he can increase the quantity of work he can perform, while saving time in the process. Each individual worker becomes an expert in their particular task, resulting in more work being completed more efficiently.

With an increase in technology and the development of new machines in the Industrial Revolution came the idea of the division of labor. The workers new ability to concentrate on specific tasks led them to become more skilled in that task. This specialization allowed for increased efficiency, a growth in output and increase in trade, leading to greater economic independence for the nation.


One thought on “The Division of Labor

  1. Smith says that the three circumstances that allow for an increase in production and efficiency are and increase in the workmen’s individual dexterity and their ability to complete their specific tasks, the time that is saved in passing along items, and the invention of machines. Specifically, the increased dexterity of the workers is due to their specific training in that area- which, in addition, proved to be more efficient because it eliminated the long training periods of craftsmen. Although this proved to be beneficial for the nation’s production overall, I can’t help but wonder about the consequences for workers who are so specialized that they cannot do any more than one simple task, and how that effected the overall competency of the individual.

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