Division of Labour - an Overview

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In the historical context, before the division of labor was invented, the production and value of goods and services were different. Frobel, Heinrichs, and Kreye (1978: 124) agree that in traditional industrial countries, there were high rates of unemployment, cutbacks in production and availability of labor for a short time. Investment rates were either stagnant or declining and workers produced goods much slower than today, since their completion depended on a single individual, therefore, consuming time. This mode of working greatly affected commodity availability. However, the introduction of separation of tasks saw the birth of a new world.

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According to Sun (2005: 4), The division of labor may be defined as the division of a process or employment into parts, each of which is carried out by a separate person. This process of undertaking divisible processes requires the cooperation of individuals, consciously or not. Therefore, the division of labor involves separation of tasks contained in work processes for specialization purposes. Specialization is whereby each or group of workers involved in the work processes focus on one task and gain more skill and knowledge which they apply during the performance of the task. Therefore, the speed, quality, quantity, rationality and efficiency of production of commodities and services increases.

According to Smith (n.d: 17), separation of tasks causes an increase in the quantity of work. Increased work means the production increases, therefore, benefits a region or nation regarding trade. Through the division of work, persons dexterity increase, lesser time is used, and proper machinery enables individuals to perform work requiring more workers. Globally, the division of labor allows countries economic systems grow. This growth through the distribution of work is vivid during trade, importation, and exportation of goods. Countries with specialized capabilities trade with others to acquire assets outside their fields of specialty. Through the combination of these products, acquisition of complete commodities becomes easier and cheaper.

The powerful elite, who dominate society, exert greater influence (Argyle 2011: 233). According to Argyle (2011: 234), powerful people have more freedom of action than others. Therefore, they have permission to deviate and influence others. Through their social skills, they can manipulate and persuade others into doing what they want. Therefore, the powerful elite gets involved in the division of labor in a significant way. These powerful groups of people include leaders in the government, universities, industries and the military. Their reasons for involvement in the division of labor is because they occupy societies most important institutional positions, and also have control over them.

According to Ritzer (1983: 372), A society characterized by rationality is one which emphasizes efficiency, predictability, calculability, substitution of the nonhuman for human technology, and control over uncertainty. Therefore, in the business in the social context, rationalization is taking over in most Western countries. As development becomes an achievement, rationality becomes the result. According to Mele and Rawling (2004: 4), rationality involves acting according to one's reasoning. The actions may be morally acceptable and at times may not. However, the end justifies the means. In the search for efficiency, a society emphasizes on finding the best ways so that it can achieve an end. Therefore, production and distribution of products are efficiently organized, through the division of tasks, to satisfy customers need at the suitable venue.

As one of the components of rationalization, predictability gives consumers knowledge about certain services and products (Ritzer 1983:373). The customer is more confident in a society where they know what to expect from a specialist with enough skills in a given area. When purchasing series or goods, they know what to expect regarding quality, since the givers jobs are to give the best out of their specialties. With rationality in mind, the powerful elite begins to structure the global society through the division of labor, to achieve more development. Therefore, it is clear that division of labor does give room for the structuring of a company by the powerful.

This structuring process is experienced more in industries. Several methods enable an industry to conduct the mass production of finished goods from raw materials (Bolz 1981: 3). The standard processes used by many companies are the retrieval of raw materials, processing, branding, packaging and storage, distribution, sales, and marketing. In all the processes as mentioned above, different people with specialized skills are required for the various tasks. They include farmers, where the raw materials involve crops, drivers, engineers, managers, production teams, sales agents and marketers (Bolz 1981: 4). For easy and efficient management to enhance production, the dominant in the industries must ensure that the various tasks are carried out by the particularly qualified people. Therefore, the division of labor falls in place.

Rueschemeyer (1986: 4) says that Specialization requires the exchange. In the historical and business context, the transaction refers to all types of income such as salaries, wages, and commission, meaning that money is the medium of exchange. Despite the limitation of this exchange, givers of specialized commodities should make production possible, and also get compensation to enable them to satisfy their desires and needs.

As the division of labor falls in place in the millions of companies that are active in the world, the global society ends up having structures. These class structures are brought about by the development of ranks of people, from the highest to the lowest, depending on how much they earn from their levels and types of specialization and skills. Their earnings come from decisions made by the seniors in the organizations, which further influence their status in the society, due to how and why they spend their incomes.

According to Marx (1844: 8), it is vivid that division of labor socially subdivides society as it enhances individuals. Detailed division of labor further divides humans, and thus regarded a crime against people. He further suggests that For work, life activity, productive life itself, appears to man in the first place merely as a means of satisfying a need the need to maintain physical existence. Therefore, specializing in the production and deliverance of products and services does not always involve the powerful groups. It is a way for individuals to exploit their talents, abilities, and interest and sustain themselves in the process.

Rueschemeyer (1986: 2) concludes that division of labor in peoples social lives is a universal characteristic and a biological phenomenon. Therefore, as individuals individually search for life activities that make their lives productive, they settle in different fields of labor according to their knowledge, will of acquisition of skills, as well as their level of understanding. It is in this process that different people acquire different skills, which later land them in diverse occupations in organizations. These rules then dictate what they earn and how they live.

Marxs (1844: 2) actual economic fact states that The devaluation of the world of men is in direct proportion to the increasing value of the world of things. This fact explains why laborers become poorer, despite that their productions power and size continuously increases. The more the creation of a commodity, the cheaper it becomes.

In modern times, devaluation of men is more than in the historical times. According to Rueschemeyer (1986: 4), Higher degrees of division of labor require much more flexible forms of exchange. Therefore, the few with rare and needed skills get richer, while the many with needed but distinct skills get poorer. This is also a reason behind the different ranks and class structures in society.

As mentioned above, the division of labor increases production, therefore in the global society, it is the aim of every company to have the highest production to increase its profits. According to Antunes (2011: 148), Taylor (1911) said that workers should perform their prescribed work under strict control over time and motion and that there should be a layer of managers responsible for the development and monitoring of production.

Therefore, the powerful elite, such as CEOs and managers get involved in putting their leadership skills into action and direct development through controlling production. They are not necessarily there to structure society into the social structures that are present in recent times. The structuring of society is inevitable because the biological phenomena of men to venture into diverse fields of specialty is uncontrollable. It gets more unmanageable when some of the specialists become more ambitious than others, leading to inventions of all sorts of genre.


Antunes, R. (2011). Freeze-dried flexibility: A new morphology of labor, casualization and value. Work Organisation, labor and globalization. 5(1).

ARGYLE, M. (1973). Social interaction. London, Methuen.

BOLZ, R. W. (1981). Production processes: the productivity handbook. New York, N.Y., Industrial Press.

Frobel, F, Heinrichs, J and Kreye, O. (1978). The new international division of labor. Social Science Information. 17(1), 123-142.

Marx, K. (1844). Estranged Labour. Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts

MELE, A. R., & RAWLING, P. (2004). The Oxford handbook of rationality. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Ritzer, G. (1983). The McDonaldization of Society. Journal of American Culture. 6(1), 100-107

RUESCHEMEYER, D. (1986). Power and the division of labour. Stanford, Calif, Stanford University Press.

SUN, G.-Z. (2005). Readings in the economics of the division of labor. Hackensack, NJ, World Scientific. http://site.ebrary.com/id/10174015.

Smith, Adam. n.d., Division of Labor.

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