The evolution of the market economy began during the pre-industrial era and ended roughly, by the end of the industrial revolution. The nature of labor drastically changed for the American workers and slaves, specifically in Philadelphia. Society was predominantly based on artisan work up until the emergence of the division of labor. Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville have different opinions on how it effected the development of labor in America. While Smith celebrated the division of labor, Tocqueville was less sanguine about it. Furthermore, machines hastened productivity. Aside from the, Eli Whitney’s cotton gin and the mechanical loom caused rebellions to occur among slaves and artisans, respectively. The division of labor and the introduction of machines led to the exile of Native Americans, a widespread of slavery, and an increase of wage laborers. Herein lies the beginning of modern capitalism as well as a precursor to the Civil War.
By the 1700’s, the nature of production relied on skilled craftsmen called artisans. Each worker specialized in a field based on what they owned. For example, if you owned a loom, you were a weaver, and nothing else. The artisans would usually have an apprentice/journeyman to work alongside them for a small wage. This kind of work was great for the individuals because there was little to no competition. Typically, in a colony, there was only one blacksmith, one baker, one sewer, one shoemaker, etc… All of the artisans were self employed and had complete control over their work. It was an autonomous system, which means that the workers had independence but were still tied to the economy.
There was also merchant class, who focused on selling, rather than creating. Although the craftsmen were the majority of the population, the merchants were wealthier. The main difference between the merchants and artisans is their definition of ‘property’. For artisans, their property was the visible product of their labor: their tools, skills, and final goods. Merchants viewed property as a store of wealth, i.e. what they can gain from it. To sum it up, artisans had tangible property, whereas merchants had intangible property. Although, “Despite the great disparity in their wealth, an intricate web of economic and social relationships linked artisan and merchant, creating an apparent community of interest between them”(Forner, p.32). Often times, the merchants would supply the artisans with tools and raw materials for the artisans to use. Also, the wealthy merchants would usually be the primary consumers for them, so the artisans relied on them for income.
By end of the 18th century, the division of labor had begun. The skilled artisan workers were no longer needed to create products. They started to get replaced by common workers and immigrants who would work for lower wages. The cost of production fell greatly. It is agreed amongst Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville that the division of labor was good for the...