Adam Smith

Rousseau’s, Smith’s, and Marx’s differing perspectives on human nature provides a basis for their reasoning on the division of labour. Rousseau believes that as man perfects his ability to reason concepts, the more corrupt he grows to be. With this belief, Rousseau reasons that man becomes corrupt when he creates the division of labour. Alternatively, Smith reasons that the division of labour exists because of man’s instinct to “barter” (317). In contrast to Rousseau, he perceives the division of labour as advantageous to the economy.

Lastly, Marx sees the division of labour between the proletarian and the bourgeois. Dependence, greed, and freedom are characteristics of human nature that allow the division of labour. The men seek an effective ideology that allows human error, and its vices to occur in society, without disrupting it. Rousseau argues that through the development of “education” and “habits”, man has “been able to corrupt” himself (294). At the start of his progression, man’s relationship with nature is simple and innocent; he is not yet aware of his ability to reason. But Rousseau notices that through time, man’s abilities increase.

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Life, for him, becomes increasingly complicated. Rousseau observes that the savage man can adapt to different environments more than any other species because of their “ability to observe and imitate their industry” (295). As savage man observes, he begins to relate ideas together. For example, a man observes that large rocks, when thrown at animals can kill them. He also observes that the meat of the dead animals nourish him. By relating these observations, he develops his ability to reason: he realizes that the rocks serve as excellent tools in catching prey.

Reason allows man to believe that he can control his environment-he is a “free agent” (296) from nature. Once essential in man’s growth, nature now looses importance to him: “the will still speaks when nature is silent” (296). When man is dependent on nature, few challenges arise, but when a society is created where man is dependent on his own species, corruption of the society begins. Rousseau witnesses “how little [nature] prepared [man] for becoming habituated to the ways of society” (297).

“Natural pity” is what creates friendships; it “is what carries us without reflection to the aid of those we see suffering” (300). But reason mutes pity and turns man against the nature that once nurtured him. Reason then, aids in the corruption of man and his society. He “has merely to place his hands over his ears and argue with himself a little in order to prevent nature, which rebels within him, from identifying him with the man being assassinated” (300). Rousseau also argues that since man’s reasoning is corrupt, his concept of property then must also be corrupt.

Property triggers the creation of a “civil society” (302). From this point, civil society’s “first advances enabled man to make more rapid ones” (304). Rousseau notes several divisions of labour occurring in various aspects of society. Each occurrence triggers another. The first division of labour is evident in manual labour, between the strong and the weak: “[since] the strongest were probably the first to make themselves lodgings they felt capable of defending, presumably the weak found it quicker and safer to imitate them than to try to dislodge them” (304).

The second division occurs between the sexes: the women watch over the children while the men “seek their common subsistence” (304). The third occurs in small divisions among the villagers and has the most impact on society. Because of the division of labour, preference becomes possible: “the handsomest, the strongest, the most adroit or the most eloquent [become] the most highly regarded” (305). But preference, Rousseau remarks, is “the first step toward inequality” (305). “Vanity”, “contempt”, “shame and envy” corrupt the society (307).

“It is in this slow succession of things that [man] will see the solution to an infinity of moral and political problems which the philosophers are unable to resolve” (312). Adam Smith believes that the division of labour is essential and advantageous to a society and its economy. In a “savage nation of hunters and fishers” we can see the effects of the absence of the division of labour: insufficient amounts of the “necessaries and conveniences for life” are produced because one man supports many people alone (314-5). Ultimately, those who can not fend for themselves must perish.

In civil societies, people live in an abundance of product. This abundance is a result of the presence of the division of labour. For example, in the art of pin making, several trades are practiced. One labourer “[draws] out the wire”, another straightens it, a third cuts it, a fourth to point it, and a fifth to “grind it at the top for receiving the head” (316). If one man were to perform the five tasks, he would “scarce [… ] make one pin in a day” (316). He would lack education in all the tasks and would also not be “acquainted with the use of machinery employed in it” (316).