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Encyclopedia > Division of labour

Division of labour is the specialisation of cooperative labour in specific, circumscribed tasks and roles, intended to increase efficiency of output. Historically the growth of a more and more complex division of labour is closely associated with the growth of trade, the rise of capitalism, and of the complexity of industrialisation processes. Later, the division of labour reached the level of a scientifically-based management practice with the time and motion studies associated with Taylorism. In classical economics and all micro-economics labour is a measure of the work done by human beings and is one of three factors of production, the others being land and capital. ... Look up efficiency in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... It has been suggested that Commerce be merged into this article or section. ... For other uses, see Capitalism (disambiguation). ... A factory in Ilmenau (Germany) around 1860 Industrialisation (also spelled Industrialization) or an Industrial Revolution is a process of social and economic change whereby a human group is transformed from a pre-industrial society (an economy where the amount of capital accumulated per capita is low) to an industrial one... Taylorism or Scientific management is the name of the approach to management and Industrial/Organizational Psychology initiated by Frederick Winslow Taylor in his 1911 monograph The Principles of Scientific Management. ...


The productivity gains of the division of labor are important within any type of production process, ranging from pin manufacture to software production to legal practice and medical care.

Contents

Philosophical point of view

Plato

In Plato's Republic we are instructed that the origin of the state lies in that "natural" inequality of humanity that is embodied in the division of labour. PLATO was one of the first generalized Computer assisted instruction systems, originally built by the University of Illinois (U of I) and later taken over by Control Data Corporation (CDC), who provided the machines it ran on. ... Plato. ...


"Well then, how will our state supply these needs? It will need a farmer, a builder, and a weaver, and also, I think, a shoemaker and one or two others to provide for our bodily needs. So that the minimum state would consist of four or five men...." (The Republic, Page 103, Penguin Classics edition.)


Xenophon

Xenophon, writing in the fourth century BC makes a passing reference to division of labour in his 'Cyropaedia' (aka Education of Cyrus). Xenophon, Greek historian Xenophon (In Greek , ca. ... Cyropaedia (lit. ... Cyropaedia (from Greek Kúrou paideía The education of Cyrus) is a partly fictional biography[1] of Cyrus the Great, written by the Athenian gentleman-soldier Xenophon. ...


"Just as the various trades are most highly developed in large cities, in the same way food at the palace is prepared in a far superior manner. In small towns the same man makes couches, doors, ploughs and tables, and often he even builds houses, and still he is thankful if only he can find enough work to support himself. And it is impossible for a man of many trades to do all of them well. In large cities, however, because many make demands on each trade, one alone is enough to support a man, and often less than one: for instance one man makes shoes for men, another for women, there are places even where one man earns a living just by mending shoes, another by cutting them out, another just by sewing the uppers together, while there is another who performs none of these operations but assembles the parts, Of necessity, he who pursues a very specialised task will do it best." (Cited in The Ancient Economy by M. I. Finley. Penguin books 1992, p 135.) kk The Ancient Economy is a book about the economic system of the classical antiquity written by the classicist Moses I. Finley. ...


William Petty

Sir William Petty was the first modern writer to take note of division of labour, showing its existence and usefulness in Dutch shipyards. Classically the workers in a shipyard would build ships as units, finishing one before starting another. But the Dutch had it organised with several teams each doing the same tasks for successive ships. People with a particular task to do must have discovered new methods that were only later observed and justified by writers on political economy. Sir William Petty (May 27, 1623 – December 16, 1687) was an English economist, scientist and philosopher. ... Small shipyard in Klaksvík (Faroe Islands), reparing fishing vessels Fish ladder and shipyard in Grave, the Netherlands Construction hall of Schichau Seebeck Shipyard, Bremerhaven Gdynia Shipyard Shipyards and dockyards are places which repair and build ships. ...


Petty also applied the principle to his survey of Ireland. His breakthrough was to divide up the work so that large parts of it could be done by people with no extensive training.


Bernard de Mandeville

Bernard de Mandeville discusses the matter in the second volume of The Fable of the Bees. This elaborates many matters raised by the original poem about a 'Grumbling Hive'. He says: Bernard de Mandeville (1670 – 1733), was a philosopher, political economist and satirist. ... The Fable of The Bees, by Bernard de Mandeville, 1714. ...

But if one will wholly apply himself to the making of Bows and Arrows, whilst another provides Food, a third builds Huts, a fourth makes Garments, and a fifth Utensils, they not only become useful to one another, but the Callings and Employments themselves will in the same Number of Years receive much greater Improvements, than if all had been promiscuously follow’d by every one of the Five.

David Hume

David Hume talks about "partition of employments" in "A Treatise of Human Nature" (1739): This article is about the philosopher. ...

When every individual person labours a-part, and only for himself, his force is too small to execute any considerable work; his labour being employ’d in supplying all his different necessities, he never attains a perfection in any particular art; and as his force and success are not at all times equal, the least failure in either of these particulars must be attended with inevitable ruin and misery. Society provides a remedy for these three inconveniences. By the conjunction of forces, our power is augmented: By the partition of employments, our ability encreases: And by mutual succour we are less expos’d to fortune and accidents. ’Tis by this additional force, ability, and security, that society becomes advantageous.

Henri Louis Duhamel du Monceau

In his additions to l’”Art de l’Épinglier”[1] - The Art of the Pin-Maker - (1761), Henri Louis Duhamel du Monceau writes about the "division of labour"[2]: Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau (1700-1782), was a French naval engineer and botanist. ...

There is nobody who is not surprised of the small price of pins; but we shall be even more surprised, when we know how many different operations, most of them very delicate, are mandatory to make a good pin. We are going to go through these operations in a few words to stimulate the curiosity to know their detail; this enumeration will supply as many articles which will make the division of this labour. [...] The first operation is to have brass go through the drawing plate to calibrate it. [...]

Adam Smith

In the first sentence of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith foresaw the essence of industrialism by determining that division of labour represents a qualitative increase in productivity. His example was the making of pins. Unlike Plato, Smith did not regard the division of labour as a consequence of human inequality but famously argued that the difference between a street porter and a philosopher was as much a consequence of the division of labour as its cause. Therefore, while for Plato the level of specialisation determined by the division of labour was externally determined, for Smith it was the dynamic engine of economic progress. However, in a further chapter of the same book Smith criticises the division of labour saying it leads to a 'mental mutilation' in workers; they become ignorant and insular as their working lives are confined to a single repetitive task. The contradiction has led to some debate over Smith's opinion of the division of labour. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations is the magnum opus of Adam Smith, published in 1776. ... For other persons named Adam Smith, see Adam Smith (disambiguation). ... PLATO was one of the first generalized Computer assisted instruction systems, originally built by the University of Illinois (U of I) and later taken over by Control Data Corporation (CDC), who provided the machines it ran on. ...


The specialisation and concentration of the workers on their single subtasks often leads to greater skill and greater productivity on their particular subtasks than would be achieved by the same number of workers each carrying out the original broad task. Concept B is a specialization of concept A if and only if: every instance of concept B is also an instance of concept A; and there are instances of concept A which are not instances of concept B. For instance, Bird is a specialization of Animal because every bird is...


Smith saw the importance of matching skills with equipment - usually in the context of an organisation. For example, pin makers were organised with one making the head, another the body, each using different equipment. Similarly he emphasised that a large number of skills, used in cooperation and with suitable equipment, were required to build a ship.


In modern economic discussion the term human capital would be used. Smith's insight suggests that the huge increases in productivity obtainable from technology or technological progress are possible because human and physical capital are matched, usually in an organisation. See also a short discussion of Adam Smith's theory in the context of business processes. Human capital is a way of defining and categorizing the skills and abilities as used in employment and as they otherwise contribute to the economy. ... By the mid 20th century humans had achieved a mastery of technology sufficient to leave the surface of the Earth for the first time and explore space. ... A Business Process is a collection of interrelated tasks, which solve a particular issue. ...


Karl Marx

Increasing specialisation may also lead to workers with poorer overall skills and a lack of enthusiasm for their work. This viewpoint was extended and refined by Karl Marx. He described the process as alienation; workers become more and more specialised and work repetitious which eventually leads to complete alienation. Marx wrote that "with this division of labour", the worker is "depressed spiritually and physically to the condition of a machine". He believed that the fullness of production is essential to human liberation and accepted the idea of a strict division of labour only as a temporary necessary evil. Karl Heinrich Marx (May 5, 1818 – March 14, 1883) was a 19th century philosopher, political economist, and revolutionary. ... Marxs theory of alienation (Entfremdung in German), as expressed in the writings of young Karl Marx, refers to the separation of things that naturally belong together, or to antagonism between things that are properly in harmony. ... Look up Liberation in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


Marx's most important theoretical contribution was his sharp distinction between the social division and the technical or economic division of labour. That is, some forms of labour co-operation are due purely to technical necessity, but others are purely a result of a social control function related to a class and status hierarchy. If these two divisions are conflated, it might appear as though the existing division of labour is technically inevitable and immutable, rather than (in good part) socially constructed and influenced by power relationships. Much of the recent sociological debate on power revolves around the issue of the constraining and/or enabling nature of power. ...


It may be, for example, that it is technically necessary that both pleasant and unpleasant jobs must be done by a group of people. But from that fact alone, it does not follow that any particular person must do any particular (pleasant or unpleasant) job. If particular people get to do the unpleasant jobs and others the pleasant jobs, this cannot be explained by technical necessity; it is a socially made decision, which could be made using a variety of different criteria. The tasks could be rotated, or a person could be assigned to a task permanently, and so on.


Marx also suggests that the capitalist division of labour will evolve over time such that the maximum amount of labour is productive labour, where productive labour is defined as labour which creates surplus value. Productive and unproductive labour were concepts used in classical political economy mainly in the 18th and 19th century, which survive today to some extent in modern management discussions, economic sociology and Marxist or Marxian economic analysis. ... Surplus value, according to Marxism, is unpaid labour that is extracted from the worker by the capitalist, and serves as the basis for capitalist accumulation. ...


However, time use surveys suggest that commercially performed labour always depends on, and goes together with, the performance of a very large amount of voluntary labour. To the extent that state subsidies are cut and privatisation increases, more work often devolves on people who must do that work without pay. General A time use survey is a statistical survey which aims to report data on how, on average, people spend their time. ... A subsidy is generally a monetary grant given by government in support of an activity regarded as being in the public interest. ... Privatization (sometimes privatisation, denationalization, or — especially in India — disinvestment) is the process of transferring property, from public ownership to private ownership. ...


In Marx's imagined communist society, the division of labour is transcended, meaning that balanced human development occurs where people fully express their nature in the variety of creative work that they do. This article is about communism as a form of society and as a political movement. ...


Émile Durkheim

Émile Durkheim wrote about a fractionated, unequal world by dividing it along the lines of "human solidarity," its essential moral value is division of labour. In 1893 he published "The Division of Labour in Society", his fundamental statement of the nature of human society and its social development. According to Franz Borkenau it was a great increase in division of labour occurring in the 1600s after the Industrial Revolution that introduced the abstract category of work, which may be said to underlie, in turn, the whole modern, Cartesian notion that our bodily existence is merely an object of our (abstract) consciousness. Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Émile Durkheim Émile Durkheim (IPA: ; April 15, 1858 – November 15, 1917) was a French sociologist whose contributions were instrumental in the formation of sociology and anthropology. ... Solidarity in sociology refers to the feeling or condition of unity based on common goals, interests, and sympathies among a groups members. ... The Division of Labour in Society, written by Émile Durkheim in 1893, was influential in advancing sociological theories and thought, with ideas which in turn were influenced by Auguste Comte. ... For the Brian Yuzna film, see Society (film). ... For other meanings of development used in and outside social sciences, see development. ... Franz Borkenau (December 15, 1900-May 22, 1957) was an Austrian writer. ... A Watt steam engine, the steam engine that propelled the Industrial Revolution in Britain and the world. ... Cartesian means of or relating to the French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes. ...


Ludwig von Mises

On the other hand, Marx's theories, including the negative claims regarding the division of labour have been criticised by the Austrian economists, such as Ludwig von Mises. The Austrian School is a school of economic thought which rejects opposing economists reliance on methods used in natural science for the study of human action, and instead bases its formalism of economics on relationships through logic or introspection called praxeology. ... Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises (September 29, 1881 – October 10, 1973) (IPA: ) was a notable economist and a major influence on the modern libertarian movement. ...


The main argument here is that the gains accruing from the division of labour by far outweigh the costs; that it is fully possible to achieve balanced human development within capitalism, and that alienation is more a romantic fiction. After all, work is not all there is; there is also leisure time. For other uses, see Capitalism (disambiguation). ... Look up alienation, alienate in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... A relaxing afternoon of leisure: a young girl resting in a pool. ...


Globalization

The issue reaches its broadest scope in the controversies about globalization, which is often interpreted as a euphemism for the expansion of world trade based on comparative advantage. This would mean that countries specialise in the work they can do best. Critics however allege that international specialisation cannot be explained very well in terms of "the work nations do best", rather this specialisation is guided more by commercial criteria, which favour some countries over others. A KFC franchise in Kuwait. ... In economics, the theory of comparative advantage explains why it can be beneficial for two parties (countries, regions, individuals and so on) to trade if one has a lower relative cost of producing some good. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ...


The OECD recently advised (28 June 2005) that: The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international organization of those developed countries that accept the principles of representative democracy and a free market economy. ... is the 179th day of the year (180th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 2005 (MMV) was a common year starting on Saturday (link displays full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...


"Efficient policies to encourage employment and combat unemployment are essential if countries are to reap the full benefits of globalisation and avoid a backlash against open trade... Job losses in some sectors, along with new job opportunities in other sectors, are an inevitable accompaniment of the process of globalisation... The challenge is to ensure that the adjustment process involved in matching available workers with new job openings works as smoothly as possible."


Modern debates

In the modern world, those specialists most preoccupied in their work with theorising about the division of labour are those involved in management and organisation. In view of the global extremities of the division of labour, the question is often raised about what division of labour would be most ideal, beautiful, efficient and just. For other uses, see Management (disambiguation). ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ...


Labour hierarchy is to a great extent inevitable, simply because no one can do all tasks at once; but of course the way these hierarchies are structured can be influenced by a variety of different factors. The question to ask is what the hierarchy is a hierarchy of. A hierarchy (in Greek: , derived from — hieros, sacred, and — arkho, rule) is a system of ranking and organizing things or people, where each element of the system (except for the top element) is a subordinate to a single other element. ...


It is often agreed that the most equitable principle in allocating people within hierarchies is that of true (or proven) competency or ability. This important Western concept of meritocracy could be read as an explanation or as a justification of why a division of labour is the way it is. Competencies represent clusters of skills, abilities and knowledges needed to perform jobs. ... Look up ability in Wiktionary, the free dictionary Ability - the quality of person of being able to perform; A quality that permits or facilitates achievement or accomplishment. ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ... An explanation is a statement which points to causes, context, and consequences of some object, process, state of affairs, etc. ... Justification can mean: justification (jurisprudence) justification (typesetting) justification (theology) In epistemology, justification of a belief is what renders it worth believing in terms of its probable truth. ...


In general, in capitalist economies, such things are not decided consciously. Different people try different things, and that which is most effective (produces the most and best output with the least input) will generally be adopted. Often techniques that work in one place or time do not work as well in another. This does not present a problem, as the only requirement of a capitalist system is that the value of your outputs exceed the value of your inputs. In economics, a capitalist is someone who owns capital, presumably within the economic system of capitalism. ... In economics, a capitalist is someone who owns capital, presumably within the economic system of capitalism. ...


Global division of labour

There exist as yet few comprehensive studies of the global division of labour (an intellectual challenge for researchers), although the ILO and national statistical offices can provide plenty data on request for those game to try. The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that deals with labour issues. ...


In one study, Deon Filmer estimated that 2,474 million people participated in the global non-domestic labour force in the mid-1990s. Of these,

  • around 15%, or 379 million people, worked in industry,
  • a third, or 800 million worked in services, and
  • over 40%, or 1,074 million, in agriculture.

The majority of workers in industry and services were wage & salary earners - 58 percent of the industrial workforce and 65 percent of the services workforce. But a big portion were self-employed or involved in family labour. Filmer suggests the total of employees worldwide in the 1990s was about 880 million, compared with around a billion working on own account on the land (mainly peasants), and some 480 million working on own account in industry and services.


Types of Specialization

Geographical Specialisation: land use is naturally suited to specific situation.


Labour Specialisation: achieved when the population process is broken into tiny tasks. The idea is referred to as the division of labour.


Advantages

  1. More efficient in terms of time.
  2. Reduces the time needed for training because the task is simplified.
  3. Increases productivity because training time is reduced and the worker is productive in a short amount of time.
  4. Concentration on one repetitive task makes workers more skilled at performing that task.
  5. Little time is spent moving between tasks so overall time wasted is reduced.
  6. The overall quality of the product will increase bringing welfare gains to the consumer

Disadvantages

  1. Lack of motivation: the quality of labour decreases while absenteeism may rise.
  2. Growing dependency: a break in production may cause problems to the entire process.
  3. Loss of flexibility: workers have limited knowledge while not many jobs opportunities are available.
  4. Higher start-up costs: high initial costs necessary to buy the specialist machinery lead to a higher break-even point.

Absenteeism is a habitual pattern of absence from a duty or obligation. ... The breakeven point in economics is the point at which cost or expenses and income are equal _ there is no net loss or gain, one has broken even. The point at which a firm or other economic entity breaks even is equal to its fixed costs divided by its...

Sexual division of labour

The clearest exposition of the principles of sexual division of labour across the full range of human societies can be summarised by a large number of logically complementary implicational constraints of the following form: if women of childbearing ages in a given community tend to do X (e.g., preparing soil for planting) they will also do Y (e.g., the planting) while for men the logical reversal in this example would be that if men plant they will prepare the soil. The 'Cross Cultural Analysis of the Sexual Division of Labor ' by White, Brudner and Burton (1977, public domain), using statistical entailment analysis, shows that tasks more frequently chosen by women in these order relations are those more convenient in relation to childrearing. This type of finding has been replicated in a variety of studies, including modern industrial economies. These entailments do not restrict how much work for any given task could be done by men (e.g., in cooking) or by women (e.g., in clearing forests) but are only least-effort or role-consistent tendencies. To the extent that women clear forests for agriculture, for example, they tend to do the entire agricultural sequence of tasks on those clearings. In theory, these types of constraints could be removed by provisions of child care, but ethnographic examples are lacking. Farming, ploughing rice paddy, in Indonesia Agriculture is the process of producing food, feed, fiber and other desired products by cultivation of certain plants and the raising of domesticated animals (livestock). ... Cross-Cultural Studies is a specialization in Anthropology that uses field data from many societies to examine the scope of human behavior and test hypotheses about human behavior and culture. ...   Parenting is the process of raising and educating a child from birth until adulthood. ... Cooking is the act of preparing food. ... Ethnography (from the Greek ethnos = nation and graphe = writing) refers to the qualitative description of human social phenomena, based on months or years of fieldwork. ...


Further reading

  • Stephanie Coontz & Peta Henderson, Women's Work, Men's Property: The Origins of Gender and Class.
  • Ali Rattansi, Marx and the Division of Labour.
  • Emile Durkheim, The Division of Labour in Society.
  • Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital; The Degradation of Labor in the 20th Century
  • André Gorz, The Division of Labour: The Labour Process and Class Struggle in Modern Capitalism.
  • Bertell Ollman, Sexual and social revolution.
  • Murray Rothbard, Freedom, Inequality, Primitivism and the Division of Labor [1]
  • Herbert Gintis, Samuel Bowles, Robert T. Boyd and Ernst Fehr, Moral Sentiments and Material Interests: The Foundations of Cooperation in Economic Life.
  • F. Froebel, F., J. Heinrichs and O. Krey, The New International Division of Labour. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • James Heartfield, "The Economy of Time" [2]
  • Richard Florida, The rise of the creative class.
  • Richard Florida, The flight of the creative class.
  • Deon Filmer, Estimating the World at Work, a background report for World Bank's World Development Report 1995 (Washington DC, 1995).

André Gorz (February 1923 – September 24, 2007), born as Gerhard Hirsch and also known by his pen name Michel Bosquet was an Austrian and French social philosopher. ... Bertell Ollman (b. ... Murray Newton Rothbard (March 2, 1926 – January 7, 1995) was an influential American economist, historian and natural law theorist belonging to the Austrian School of Economics who helped define modern libertarianism. ...

See also

A bagpiper in Scottish military clan-uniform. ... Taylorism or Scientific management is the name of the approach to management and Industrial/Organizational Psychology initiated by Frederick Winslow Taylor in his 1911 monograph The Principles of Scientific Management. ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... Surplus product (German: Mehrprodukt) is a concept explicitly theorised by Karl Marx in his critique of political economy. ... A hierarchy (in Greek: , derived from — hieros, sacred, and — arkho, rule) is a system of ranking and organizing things or people, where each element of the system (except for the top element) is a subordinate to a single other element. ... General A time use survey is a statistical survey which aims to report data on how, on average, people spend their time. ... Productive and unproductive labour were concepts used in classical political economy mainly in the 18th and 19th century, which survive today to some extent in modern management discussions, economic sociology and Marxist or Marxian economic analysis. ...

References

  1. ^ R. Réaumur and A. de Ferchault. Art de l'Épinglier avec des additions de M. Duhamel du Monceau et des remarques extraites des mémoires de M. Perronet, inspecteur général des Ponts et Chaussées. Paris, Saillant et Nyon, 1761.
  2. ^ Scan of the text of l'"Art de l'Épinglier", with the expression "division de ce travail".

Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 465 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (1775 × 2289 pixel, file size: 1. ...

External links


  Results from FactBites:
 
Division of labour - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2446 words)
Division of labour is generally speaking the specialization of cooperative labour in specific, circumscribed tasks and roles, intended to increase efficiency of output.
In the history of the human species, the first division of labour was between men and women, but it became ever more sophisticated since the invention of agriculture and the dawn of civilization.
Unlike Plato, Smith did not regard the division of labour as a consequence of human inequality but famously argued that the difference between a street porter and a philosopher was as much a consequence of the division of labour as its cause.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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