- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Division of labor disempowers workers

Posted by: Barry Stoller on February 29, 19100 at 13:36:42:

In Reply to: Just do it. posted by Frenchy on February 28, 19100 at 14:46:07:

Adam Smith, describing the division of labor:

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.

: If that were true how did we manage to produce the most inventive people in the world? Instead of having a nation of morons, as Smith seems to claim division of labor leads to, we have an educated populace in a country where thousands, if not millions, of foreign nationals vie to send their children for education (moral and cultural morons, maybe).

The division of labor, especially the division of labor in manufacture (subdivided tasks), is necesary for capitalism in a number of ways: (1) it increases productivity, hence profits, by reducing labor-time (consider Taylorism); (2) it reduces wages by simplifying jobs so any idiot can perform them; and (3) it 'alienates' formerly held skills from workers, i.e. transfers such knowledge to an elite of business owners and managers, which puts the 'brain' work out of the workers reach---thus making business owners and managers more important (and better paid). The benefits to society are increased productivity; the loss to society includes lousy work for most people and increased skill gaps which leads to wealth and status gaps throughout society.

: No matter how tedious a persons job is that doesn't prevent him from continuing his own education and pursuing his own goals. Night school, courses, two jobs, whatever it takes.

But you continue to ignore the fact that only 25% of all American jobs require ANY skills above a high school level (Business Week, 1 September 1997, p. 67). As it stands, there are lots of college graduates performing shit work---and the projections for the future are 330,000 more college grads than necessary PER YEAR (Business Week, 6 October 1997, p. 30).

Just because the kids of other country's ruling classes want a piece of American education doesn't change anything.

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