Chap 2: The Cause Of Division Of Labour

Book I, Chap 2: the Principle which Causes the Division of Labour

The Cause Of The Division Of Labour In Society

1 This division of labour is not originally the effect of any human wisdom.

  • It is the necessary, very slow, gradual, consequence of the propensity in human nature to exchange one thing for another.

2 This propensity to trade probably arises from our faculty for reason and speech more than being an original principle of human nature.

  • It is common to all humans and not found in animals who do not know any contracts.
  • Two greyhounds chasing a hare, act in concert accidentally because they have the same object at that time.
  • Dogs never deliberately exchange bones with other dogs.


No animal ever naturally traded. When an animal wants something from another animal, it tries to gain its favour.

  • A puppy fawns upon its dam
  • A spaniel tries to attract its master if it wants to eat

Man sometimes does the same with other men, sometimes trying every servile attention to obtain their good will.

  • In a civilized society, he always needs the cooperation of many others
  • But he can only maintain friendship with a few people in his entire life.
  • Most animals are totally independent after maturity.
  • But man must always depends on others, but not through benevolence.
    • He will likely get help if he can use their self-love to his favour
    • He must show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires.
    • Whoever offers a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this.
    • “Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer”
    • In this way, we get most of what we need.
    • “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”
      • We address, not their humanity but their self-love
      • We never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.
    • Only a beggar chooses to depend chiefly, but not entirely, on the benevolence of others.
      • Donors supply him with his subsistence, but not always when he needs it.
      • Most of his needs are supplied “by treaty, by barter, and by purchase” with the money donated to him

3 Our propensity to trade for what we need, creates the division of labour in society.

  • In a tribe of hunters, a person makes bows and arrows better than any other.
    • He exchanges them for cattle from people who can catch them better.
    • From a regard to his own interest, bows and arrows becomes his chief business.
  • Another excels in making roofs and also trades his service for cattle until roof-making becomes his employment.
    • In the same way, a third becomes a smith and a fourth a tanner.
  • Thus, everyone exchanges their surplus produce which are above their own consumption,
    • It encourages every man to focus on a particular occupation and improve it.

The Difference Between Humans And Animals
4 The difference of natural talents in men is the effect of the division of labour.

  • The difference between a philosopher and a street porter seems to arise not so much from nature, but from habit, custom, and education.
    • They were perhaps very much alike as children, as they get older, the difference in their talents widens til they become totally different in employment.
  • Without the disposition to exchange, everyone must have had the same duties and work to do.
    • There could have been no such difference of employment and no great difference in talents

Humans Can Benefit Each Other, Animals Cannot

5 This disposition to trade forms the difference of talents and renders them useful.

  • Animals of the same species have more natural distinction in talents from one another, than humans.
  • By nature a philosopher is not so different from a street porter
  • But mastiffs, greyhounds, spaniel, and shepherd’s dogs are very different from one another.
    • Those dogs however are of no use to one another.
    • The mastiff’s strength is not supported by the greyhound’s swiftness, or by spaniel’s sagacity, or by the shepher dog’s docility.


Their talents cannot be traded and thus cannot be brought into a common stock.

  • They do not contribute to the betterment of their species.
  • Each animal works only for itself and gets no benefit from the talents of other dogs.

Men, on the contrary, use the dissimilar geniuses of others.

  • The produce of their talents are put into a common stock by the disposition to trade, which allows everyone to buy the produce of other men’s talents.

Next: Book I, Chap. 3: Division of Labour is Limited by the Extent of the Market

Words: 771

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