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Karl Marx and Adam Smith: Division of Labour

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A nation is just a vast establishment, where the labour of each, however diverse in character, adds to the wealth of all. Two brilliant people of their time are both respected in their views for creating a near perfect society where everyone is happy. Adam Smith, a respected Scottish political economist philosopher born in 1723, had the goal of perfect liberty for all individuals through the capitalistic approach. While Karl Marx, born in 1818, believed in individual freedom for society and intellectually criticized capitalism giving reasons as to why it was irrational and why it would fail.

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Adam Smith’s very first sentence claims that, “The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgement with which it is anywhere directed or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour. “[i] Smith gives priority to the division of labour among workers as an enormous insight. But we differ and agree with his claim, followed by Karl Marx, that the degree of specialization is limited mainly by the extent of economic interest of capita to take advantage of or exploit workers, nothing could persuade capitalists to change their ways.

The comparison between Karl Marx and Adam Smith is interesting because it shows how specialization and the division of labour differ and compare and also demonstrates the amount and extent of knowledge in modern day industrialism. The purpose of this essay is to compare and contrast these political philosophers’ economic theories and find the point at which their ideologies differentiated. The view of Adam Smith and Karl Marx are complex. Through their work society has opened gateway of understanding with the help of more modern intellects to further our society knowledge on building a society around happiness.

People work cooperatively, but they have set tasks, each carrying out a one or limited number of function aimed at completing a larger task. The division of labour is designed to get labour to complete its task more efficiently. Division of labour is also credited with the rise of trade between different areas, the rise of capitalism, and increasingly complex manufacturing and industrialization. For Karl Marx, the production portion of Capitalism signalled great trouble.

He believed production in Capitalist society worked in a way that the rich factory owner benefited and the poor factory workers lost. In his manner of reasoning, the Capitalist system was inherently meant to benefit the rich and exploit the poor: “All the bourgeois economists are aware of is that production can be carried on better under the modern police than on the principle of might makes right. They forget only that this principle is also a legal relation, and that the right of the stronger prevails in their ‘constitutional republics’ as well, only in another form. [ii] Marx’s view of society and the world lead him to believe that humans create change in their lives and in their environment through practical activity in the practical world. Smith writes in his “Wealth of Nations” that the division of labour betters society. Things can be produced more quickly by a greater number of labourers specializing in a single skill than by a single worker attempting various tasks. This one worker may not be completely apt at all the components to complete the entire desired product.

A larger number of workers that can each be well adapted for a certain part of the whole product would be much more sufficient. Smith states the now famous example of the pin makers. Smith once saw a small manufactory with a few men attempting to each do three different operations, but each man could only manage to his task slowly and inefficiently. However, once an individual can learn all the skills necessary of pin making and master it, he therefore does his part and allows his fellow workers do what they know to do best, production rapidly improves and speeds up.

Like Marx, Smith realized the importance of production. Smith contended that production was the key to a growing economy. In Smith’s ideal free-trade society, average persons could start businesses, free from government intervention, and consumers would purchase from these producers at a price determined by the laws of supply and demand. Smith asserted that the innate function of the free market was determined by the simple laws of supply and demand. This division of labour effects an easy and natural combination of economic efforts for the creation of the national dividend. Whereas animals confine themselves to the direct satisfaction of their individual needs, 1 man produces commodities to exchange them for others more immediately desired. ’ [iii] Hence there results for the community an enormous increase of wealth; and division of labour, by establishing the co-operation of all for the satisfaction of the desires of each, becomes the true source of progress and of well-being. This simple connection between supply and demand is the inherent free market mechanism that allows for the natural flow and efficiency of the market.

Left to its own mechanics, the market will allow only the most competitive consumers and producers to stay afloat. The free market fixes errors on its own. If there are shortages or surpluses, the market, left to its own devices, will ensure that that the economy eventually returns to equilibrium. In writing this essay on Karl Marx and Adam Smith, I learned a great deal in regard to how much our current economy was affected by their ideas, mostly Smith’s. Marx had brilliant insights into the workings of an economy and thought extensively about the technical side of economics.

His radical political theory and influence on past violent communist leaders has placed an overwhelming shadow over the teaching and study of him. Political theory aside, however, Marx’s writings are valuable and insightful in regard to the specific mechanisms of labour. The idea of the laws of supply and demand and the division of labour can be found in every country and continent around the globe, north to south, and west to east. Aside from the difference from the two brilliant philosophers, Smith’s economic and moral theories are respected and employed in teachings, analysis, and application of modern free-trade economic systems today.

Cite this Karl Marx and Adam Smith: Division of Labour

Karl Marx and Adam Smith: Division of Labour. (2017, Mar 17). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/karl-marx-and-adam-smith-division-of-labour/

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