Throughout this text I am going to discuss one of the greatest and most
meaningful theories in the history of economics, changing the face of
manufacturing and production: The Division of Labour. The systems, methods
and intentions that derive from the theory seem to differ today than from the
18th century (when the book was first written), yet there are many similarities
still on-going in the manufacturing over world two centuries later and I will
outline them and further discuss their benefits, drawbacks and issues raised by
it within the text.
Adam Smith throughout his career argued the idea of the Division of Labour. It
is the idea that every society has - or should have - a sequence in which work is
partitioned to maximise time and increase output. With this, he was dubbed the
father of capitalism. His book The Wealth of Nations was used to make clear
what capitalism is, and how its views are different to those of more accepted
ideas of capitalism, such as the Mercantilists. Throughout the text he showed
his disapproval of their opinions of capitalism as their goals were fuelled by
greed, and not increasing social welfare – his objective. He further emphasises
this by stressing on the fact that the ‘Wealth’ of a nation is not monetary, yet
lays in the goods and services produced by the people, for the end purpose of
In a time where work was seen to be for those in the lower class, he
argued that the endless pursuit of - seemingly never ending - capital seemed to
cause a division in social class, further broadening the Wealth Gap. This
clearly shows how work was perceived then, and to no surprise, today. He also
emphasises the “heart of the society” to be at education; thus being the main
component making the division of labour still very much important today.
The Division of Labour has changed the way the majority of things that have
been produced in the past two centuries. And with something as significant as
this, there are many disadvantages to counter balance the great gains.
First of all, the production line is seen to produce a far greater number of
output than in previous models, but this also raises the issue that workers are
given repetitious and monotonous tasks that seems to turn them into machines.
This dehumanizes them and theoretically will diminish their human welfare.
Smith goes on to argue that a further – and more pressing problem – is that
once a man is placed in this repetitive lifestyle “he is equally incapable of
defending his country in war”1. I disagree with this; if a man has an inkling of
pride for his country he will do everything to defend it, whatever his work may
Another drawback is one where would not have come into context in the
late 18th century: Replacement of workers by technology. Now in the 21st
century the substitution of people for computerized servants seems to be ever
growing. For example, more and more checkout workers are left unemployed