Chap 1: Division Of Labour

Book 1, Chap 1: The Division Of Labour

The Effects Of The Division Of Labour On Society

I.1.1 Division of labour causes improvements in:
  • productivity
    • The greatest improvement is in this.
  • skill, dexterity, and judgment in work
I.1.2 The effects of division of labour is carried furthest in very trifling manufactures.
  • Trifling manufactures supply the small wants of a few people.
    • It has a few workers.
    • Its workers can can often be:
      • collected into the same workhouse, and
      • placed under the spectator’s view.
  • Great manufactures supply the great wants of the population.
    • It has so many workers that it is impossible to collect them all into the same workhouse.
    • Thus in great manufactures, the work may be divided into more parts than in trifling manufactures.
      • But the division is:
        • not as obvious, and
        • has been much less observed.
I.1.3  An example of a very trifling manufacture is pin-making.
  • The division of labour in it:
    • has been very noticed often, and
    • has made pin-making a distinct trade.
  • A worker probably might not be able to make one pin in a day if he is not educated in:
    • the pin-making business  and
    • the use of pin-making machinery
      • The invention of these was probably caused by the same division of labour.
      • Certainly, he could not make 20.
  • The whole work of pin-making is now a peculiar trade.
    • It is divided into branches.
    • Most of these branches are likewise peculiar trades.
      • One man draws out the wire
      • another straights it
      • a third cuts it
      • a fourth points it
      • a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head
        • Making the head needs two or three distinct operations.
        • Putting it on is a peculiar business.
        • Whitening the pins is another.
        • Put them into the paper is even a trade by itself.
    • In this way, the important business of making a pin is divided into around 18 distinct operations.
      • In some manufactories, all are performed by distinct hands.
      • In others, the same man might perform two or three of them.
  • I have seen a small manufactory of this kind where only 10 men were employed.
    • Some of them performed two or three distinct operations.
    • They were:
      • very poor.
      • indifferently accommodated with the necessary machinery
    • But they could make around 12 pounds of pins in a day.
  • A pound has over 4,000 middle-sized pins.
    • Therefore, those 10 persons could make over 48,000 pins in a day.
  • Each person makes 10% of 48,000 pins or 4,800 pins per day.
    • But if they worked separately and independently without being educated in pin-making, they certainly could have made 20 (0.4% of what they we capable of together) or one pin (0.02%) in a day individually.
I.1.4 The effects of the division of labour in arts and manufactures are similar to their effects in this very trifling one.
  • But in many of them, the labour cannot be;
    • so much subdivided
    • so much reduced to such simple operations.
  • However, the division of labour creates a proportional increase in the productive powers of labour in every art.
    • The separation of different trades and employments from one another arose from this productivity increase.
      • This separation too is generally carried furthest in the most advanced countries.
    • The work of one man in a rude state of society is generally the work of several men in an improved one.
  • In every improved society, the farmer is generally nothing but a farmer.
    • The manufacturer is nothing but a manufacturer.
  • The labour needed to produce any complete manufacture is almost always divided among many hands.
  • So many different trades are employed in each branch of the linen and woollen manufactures:
    • from the growers of the flax and the wool
    • to the bleachers and smoothers of the linen, or
    • to the dyers and dressers of the cloth!
  • The nature of agriculture does not allow:
    • so many subdivisions of labour, and
    • so complete a separation of one business from another, as manufactures.
  • It is impossible to entirely separate the grazier’s business from the corn-farmer’s business.
    • But the carpenter’s trade is commonly separated from the smith’s trade.
    • The spinner is almost always a distinct person from the weaver.
    • But the ploughman, the harrower, the sower of the seed, and the reaper of the corn, are often the same.
  • It is impossible for one man to be constantly employed in any agricultural work because they are seasonal.
    • This impossibility of making a complete and entire separation of the branches of agricultural labour is perhaps why the improvement of productivity in agriculture does not always keep pace with improvement of productivity in manufactures.
  • The most opulent nations generally excel in agriculture and manufactures.
    • But they are more distinguished by their manufacturing superiority.
    • Their lands are generally better cultivated.
    • They produce more in proportion to the extent and natural fertility of the ground, because of the increased labour and expence applied on them.
  • But this superiority of produce is seldom much more than in proportion to the superiority of labour and expence.
    • In agriculture, the rich country’s labour is not always much more productive than that of the poor.
      • At least, it is never much more productive as in manufactures.
    • Therefore, a rich country’s corn will not always come cheaper than a poor country’s corn.
      • Poland’s corn is as cheap as France’s corn of the same quality, despite France’s superior opulence and improvement.
      • France’s corn in the corn provinces is usually nearly the same price with England’s corn of the same quality, though France is perhaps poorer than England.
        • However, England’s corn lands are better cultivated than those of France.
        • France’s corn lands are much better cultivated than those of Poland.
  • A poor country might be able to rival a rich country in the cheapness and goodness of its corn, it cannot compete in its manufactures.
    • At least if those manufactures suit the rich country’s soil, climate, and situation.
    • France’s silks are better and cheaper than England’s silks.
      • Because the silk manufacture under the present high duties on raw silk importation suits England’s climate as that of France.
      • But England’s hardware and the coarse woollens are far superior to those of France.
        • They are much cheaper too in the same degree of goodness.
  • In Poland, there are scarce any manufactures except a few of those coarser household manufactures needed by every country.
I.1.5 This great increase of the amount of work which, in consequence of the division of labour, the same number of people are capable of performing, is due to three circumstances;
  1. The increase of dexterity in every worker
  2. The time savings commonly lost in passing from one species of work to another
  3. The invention of many machines which:
    • facilitate and abridge labour, and
    • enable one man to do the work of many.
I.1.6 First, the improvement of the dexterity of the worker increases the amount of the work he can perform.
  • The division of labour reduces every man’s business to some simple operation.
    • It makes this operation his sole life employment.
      • It necessarily increases his dexterity.
  • If a common smith who has never been used to make nails was obliged to attempt it, he will scarce be able to make over 300 bad quality nails in a day.
    • A smith who is used to making nails, but was not a nailer by trade, can seldom  make more than 1,000 nails in a day with his utmost diligence.
  • I have seen boys under 20 years old who where nailers by trade who could make over 2,300 nails a day individually when they exerted themselves.
  • The making of a nail is not a a simple operation.
    • The same person blows the bellows, stirs or mends the fire, heats the iron, and forges every part of the nail:
    • In forging the head too he is obliged to change his tools.
  • The making of a pin or a metal button has much simpler divisions of labour.
    • A person who does them solely usually has much greater dexterity.
    • The speed of some of the operations of those manufactures exceeds what the human hand could be thought of acquiring, by those who had never seen them.
I.1.7 Secondly, the advantage which is gained by saving the time commonly lost in passing from one sort of work to another, is much greater than we should at first view be apt to imagine it. It is impossible to pass very quickly from one kind of work to another; that is carried on in a different place, and with quite different tools.
  • A country weaver, who cultivates a small farm, must lose a good deal of time in passing from his loom to the field, and from the field to his loom. When the two trades can be carried on in the same workhouse, the loss of time is no doubt much less. It is even in this case, however, very considerable.
  • A man commonly saunters a little in turning his hand from one sort of employment to another.
  • When he first begins the new work he is seldom very keen and hearty; his mind, as they say, does not go to it, and for some time he rather trifles than applies to good purpose.
  • The habit of sauntering and of indolent careless application, which is naturally, or rather necessarily acquired by every country workman who is obliged to change his work and his tools every half hour, and to apply his hand in twenty different ways almost every day of his life; renders him almost always slothful and lazy, and incapable of any vigorous application even on the most pressing occasions.
  • Independent, therefore, of his deficiency in point of dexterity, this cause alone must always reduce considerably the quantity of work which he is capable of performing.
I.1.8 Thirdly, proper machinery facilitates and abridges labour.
  • It is unnecessary to give any example.
  • The invention of all those machines came from the division of labour.
    • People are much more likely to discover easier methods of attaining any object, when their whole attention is directed towards that single object, than when it is dissipated among various things.
  • Because of the division of labour, a man’s entire attention comes directed towards some very simple object.
  • Those employed in each branch of labour naturally finds easier methods of performing their work.
  • Many of the machines used in those manufactures in which labour is most subdivided, were originally the inventions of common workers.
    • They were employed in some very simple operation.
    • They naturally turned their thoughts towards finding out easier methods of performing it.
  • Whoever has been much accustomed to visit such manufactures, must frequently have been shewn very pretty machines, which were the inventions of such workmen, in order to facilitate and quicken their own particular part of the work.
  • In the first steam engines, a boy was constantly employed to open and shut alternately the communication between the boiler and the cylinder, according as the piston either ascended or descended.
  • One of those boys, who loved to play with his companions, observed that, by tying a string from the handle of the valve which opened this communication, to another part of the machine, the valve would open and shut without his assistance, and leave him at liberty to divert himself with his play-fellows.
  • One of the greatest improvements made on this machine, since it was first invented, was in this manner the discovery of a boy who wanted to save his own labour.


I.1.9 However, the improvements in machinery were not the inventions of those who used the machines.
  • Many improvements were made by the ingenuity of the makers of the machines, when to make them became the business of a peculiar trade;
  • Some were made by philosophers or men of speculation.
    • Their job is to do nothing except observe everything.
      • They are often capable of combining the powers of the most distant and dissimilar objects.
  • In the progress of society, philosophy or speculation becomes, like every other employment, the principal trade and occupation of a particular class of citizens.
    • It is also subdivided into many branches.
      • Each branch affords occupation to a peculiar class of philosophers.
      • This subdivision improves dexterity and saves time.
      • Each individual becomes more expert in his own branch/
        • More work is done on the whole.
        • The amount of science is increased by it.


I.1.10 The division of labour greatly increases productivity.
  • This productivity in a well-governed society creates the universal opulence which extends to the poor.
  • Every worker has a lot of his own work to dispose of beyond what he himself needs.
    • They all are able to exchange their own goods.
  • The worker supplies other workers abundantly with what they need.
    • They accommodate him as amply with what he needs.
    • A general plenty diffuses itself through the society.
I.1.11The accommodation of a common day-labourer in a civilized country involves a small part of the industry of so many people.
  • For example, the labourer’s woollen coat is coarse and rough.
    • But it is the produce of the joint labour of many workers:
      • The shepherd
      • the sorter of the wool
      • the wool-comber or carder
      • the dyer
      • the scribbler
      • the spinner
      • the weaver
      • the fuller
      • the dresser
    • These must all join their arts to complete the coat.
    • It also requires:
      • many merchants and carriers to transport the materials from those workers to others who often live in a very distant part of the country!
      • the drugs used by the dyer, which often come from the remotest corners of the world!
        • This is brought together by the commerce and navigation which employs:
          • ship-builders,
          • sailors,
          • sail-makers,
          • rope-makers
      • the tools of the meanest of those workers!
      • the complicated machines as:
        • the sailor’s ship,
        • the fuller’s mill,
        • the weaver’s loom
      • the very simple machines such as the shepherd’s shears for clipping the wool which requires the combined work of:
        • the miner
        • the builder of the furnace for smelting the ore
        • the feller of the timber
        • the burner of the charcoal to be made use of in the smelting-house
        • the brick-maker
        • the brick-layer
        • the workers who attend the furnace
        • the mill-wright
        • the forger
        • the smith
        • must all of them join their different arts in order to produce them.
  • The labourer has
    • his dress and household furniture
    • the coarse linen shirt which he wears next his skin
    • the shoes which cover his feet
    • the bed which he lies on
    • all the different parts which compose it
    • the kitchen-grate at which he prepares his victuals,
    • the coals which he makes use of for that purpose, dug from the bowels of the earth, and brought to him perhaps by a long sea and a long land carriage,
    • all the other utensils of his kitchen,
    • all the furniture of his table
    • the knives and forks
    • the earthen or pewter plates upon which he serves up and divides his victuals,
    • the different hands employed in preparing his bread and his beer,
    • the glass window which lets in the heat and the light,
    • and keeps out the wind and the rain, with all the knowledge and art requisite for preparing that beautiful and happy invention, without which these northern parts of the world could scarce have afforded a very comfortable habitation, together with the tools of all the different workmen employed in producing those different conveniencies;
  • The production of all these things require the assistance and cooperation of many thousands.
    • Without these, the very meanest person in a civilized country could not be provided his accommodations.
      • These accommodations falsely seem to be produced in an easy and simple way.
      • These may appear extremely simple and easy compared to the more extravagant luxury of the great.
      • But a European prince’s accommodation does not always so much exceed that of an industrious and frugal peasant.
      • But the peasant’s accommodation exceeds the accommodation of many African kings.
        • Those kings are absolute masters of the lives and liberties of 10,000 naked savages.




Nail making


steam engine

Early steam engine


Woollen Coat

Woollen Coat

Next: Chap. 2: The Cause of Division of Labour

Words: 2800


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