Division of Labor
Division of labor is the specialization of individuals working together in performing various tasks. Specialization allows workers to perform single tasks for a long period in an organization. This practice contributes a lot in cutting short the time of training the workers and consequently the costs of training, as they are only trained a specific task or part of the entire work. Generally, the deploying of division of labor in an organization is usually associated with the rise of capitalism, increase in total plant output, and multiplicity of industrialized processes. Division of labor is also associated with growth of producer and worker productivity.
Adam Smith`s theory of Division of labor
Adam Smith`s main focus as seen in the book ‘The wealth of nations’, is the idea of economic growth, which roots in the rising of division of labor. The idea of division of labor is associated with specialization of labor force in various organizations. This involves the breakdown of large work into smaller components which are allocated to each worker according to their lines of skills. This gives an opportunity to the workers to become experts in regard to their areas of specialization.
According to Smith, the specialization level is determined by division of labor is likely to facilitate economic growth. Specialization of workers in their single tasks could lead to improved skills and greater productivity as compared to them handling the entire work all together. Also, it saves time and money as workers don’t switch jobs but rather dwell on their jobs of specialization (Smith, In Cannan, & Lerner, 1937).
However, Smith said that forcing workers to do a repetitious work, would lead to dissatisfied and ignorant staff. He supposed that the government had the responsibility to offer education to workers. The workers should be well informed on the positive values of division of labor and be motivated towards the same (Smith, In Cannan, & Lerner, 1937).
With the invention of new technological machines, Smith suggested that, it was useful to match skills of workers with the equipment to be dealt with in an organization scenario. In the modern economic scenario, human capital is mostly applied. He further suggested that the high produce associated with technological advances is as a result of matching human and physical capital (Smith, In Cannan, & Lerner, 1937).
Karl Marx`s theory of Division of labor
Although specialization is productive, continuous increase in specialization in an organization may as well lead to workers who lack enthusiasm on their jobs. Marx describes specialization as a process of alienation. He suggested that workers become more specialized, and their work also becomes more repetitive, to the extent that they are totally alienated from the production process. He believed that people could only be liberated if they totally played a role in economic production, and considered the idea of strict division of labor only as a temporary necessary evil. In addition to that, Marx suggested that specialization was not convenient in imparting skills to workers, as it created less skilled workers. With continuous specialization, less training was required for different lines of jobs, and the overall workforce would be less skilled compared to a worker who handled the entire work (Rattansi, 1982).
Marx was able to come up with a clear difference between economic and social divisions of labor. Therefore, technical necessity leads to labor cooperation which may also arise due to social control, an idea which relates to status and class hierarchy. Labor hierarchy is a common feature, usually portrayed in the modern organization structure. He also believed that balanced development happens where people express their nature fully in many creative work, and division of labor is transcended in a communist society.
Considering the two theories of division of labor
Both Smith and Marx agree that division of labor is beneficial although it subjects workers to the same job over a long period, making them ignorant; and, this can easily reduce the overall output. Although, Marx and Smith differing political ideologies, their economic theories are similar. Both of them believe that the number of labor hours allocated to an object, creates the value and worth of the object.
However, Smith relates specialization with an overall increase in the output whereas Marx describes it as a process of alienation whereby workers are spiritually and physically depressed to the machine conditions.
Adam Smith and Karl Marx have a great influence in economic and social fields. According to their views, they have different ideologies regarding the society. Smith advocates for capitalism and the wealth it will carry along, whereas, Marx criticizes capitalism and praises communism that is meant to take over the capitalist society. Smith views that division of labor has an influence on the public wealth and encourages growth of a commercial society. Marx, on the other hand views that capitalist people through their systems, cannot be able to acquire the fruits of labor in terms of wealth due to the alienation between the worker and their production methods (Smith, In Cannan, & Lerner, 1937).
Rattansi, A. (1982). Marx and the division of labour. London: Macmillan.
Smith, A., In Cannan, E., & Lerner, M. (1937). An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. New York: The Modern library.
Smith, A., Smith, G. H., Deitschmann, C., Knowledge Products, & Blackstone Audiobooks. (2007). The wealth of nations: Part 2. Ashland, Or.: Knowledge Products.