- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Adam Smith: 'fascist'?

Posted by: Barry Stoller on December 17, 1999 at 11:42:30:

Adam Smith:

In the progress of the division of labor, the employment of the far greater part of those who live by labor, that is, of the great body of people, comes to be confined to a few very simple operations, frequently to one or two. But the understandings of the greater part of men are necessarily formed by their ordinary employments. The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects too are, perhaps, always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding, or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant a creature as it is possible for a human creature to become.

The torpor of his mind renders him, not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgement concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private life. Of the great and extensive interests of his country he is altogether incapable of judging; and unless very particular pains heve been taken to render him otherwise, he is equally incapable of defending his country in war.

The uniformity of his stationary life naturally corrupts the courage of his mind, and makes him regard with abhorrence the irregular, uncertain, and adventurous life of a soldier. It corrupts even the activity of his body, and renders him incapable of exerting his strength with vigour and persverance, in any employment than that to which he has been bred. His dexterity at his own particular trade seems, in this manner, to be acquired at the expense of his intellectual, social, and martial virtues.

But in every improved and civilized society this is the state into which the laboring poor, that is, the great body of the people, must necessarily fall, unless government takes some pains to prevent it.

(The Wealth of Nations [1776], Modern Library Edition, pp. 734-5, emphasis added.)

To re-cap: the SOCIAL DIVISION OF LABOR makes each worker dull and ignorant---so dull and ignorant that those forced into ONE PROFESSION (especially a unskilled one) cannot be counted on to defend their own land. This problem will affect 'the great body of the people' unless government INTERVENES to abolish the social division of labor. That means: JOB ROTATION---or the distribution of BOTH skilled and unskilled work for EVERYONE.

Now---who's ready to call Adam Smith a 'fascist'?

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