QUESTION: results of the division of labour. Smith

QUESTION:

The effects of the division of labour in the society

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Division of labour has been
subject to different schools of thoughts with opposing views.  It still exists in modern industries such as
fast food chains like McDonald’s and various cars manufacturers such as Toyota
and Ford. The purpose of this essay is to consider whether the theories of the
division of labour still apply within a contemporary society and if Adam
Smith’s work on the division of labour is still of any interest to the public because
various changes have distorted the functions of employees with technology
playing a large role in this.  Society
considers itself to be progressive and the division of labour and the
advancements in technology are key players.

Adam Smith upheld that the
division of labour is a natural occurrence in a capitalist society. In the
wealth of the nations, Smith clearly expressed his theory that the division of
labour is the greatest contributor to an increased output which in return leads
to an overall higher level of profits which increases the fixed and circulating
capital that are financed (Smith Chp 1, 
pg 13 Wealth of the Nations). This is as even in the production of the
simplest products; the division of labour allows the workers to specialise in
specific areas which in return allow the labourers to focus and be engaged on
their task resulting in greater productivity. This has been one of the reasons
cited by Smith. Through having workers perform specialised labouring tasks, a
great example is the construction of cars. The division of labour can raise
technical efficiency greatly through the fact that it reduces the transition
time between tasks an example includes a worker who paints the parts for the
car wouldn’t have to put down their tool and assemble the car. The delegation
of roles promotes efficiency and productivity as once a worker has finished
painting one car they can move on to painting another thus there would be a
higher number of products produced.  This
is emphasised through the example of the pin factory, which illustrates the
productivity multiply results of the division of labour. Smith in this example
has made it clear that by specialising their skills they are able to create
greater collective human prosperity.

The division of labour promotes
efficiency through specialisation. This arises when workers are assigned
certain tasks within the process of production. Hence, less training would be
needed as they are specialists in their specific field thus leading to an
increase the productivity of labour. For example, a burger flipper in McDonald’s
and the person who oversees the fries. The more specialised they are in a
certain area the more they would be able to produce as the quicker they would
be able to produce. Hence large firms would benefit from this to the economies
of scale, which refers to  a lower
average cost and in return a larger increase in output and from an increased
efficiency. This would, in turn, increase the overall countries economy as by
theses labourers specialising in certain products or services, this would give
certain countries comparative advantages. However, if there is increased trade
then there would be increased competition as a result productivity would have
to increase. This has been one of the key contributors to companies like
McDonald’s operating on large scales.

Moreover, society considers
itself to be progressive for example fast food chains and restaurants are seen
as a phenomenon of modern society and is often used as a metaphor for
characterising some trends in contemporary society. Regarding efficiency and
specialisation, Fast food chains can be deemed to run on the principles of the
assembly line that became popular with the ford motor cars which had the main
principle of efficiency being the only way to create productivity. Here each
assembly worker would be responsible for a specific part of the creation
process, one assembly worker being responsible for the spray painting the car
whilst another is focused on the assembling of this product.

However, it is also viewed that
an increase in specialisation could be a factor that could lead to workers
overall skills being poorer and there being an increase in the lack of
enthusiasm to their work through the fact that less training would be needed.

Karl Marx’s perspective on this
approach is that it deskills workers and creates specialists.  This creates alienation, ‘the alienation of
the worker in his product’ refers to where the worker expertise would lead to
continuous repetition eventually leading to an alienation from the process of
production where the worker would become spiritually and physically depressed
to the point that they feel like they are just working as machines. This is
emphasised through ‘The product of labour is
labour which has been embodied in an object, which has become material: it is
the objectification of labour.
Labour’s realization is its objectification’ (Karl Marx, estranged labour 1844,
pg 1). This is a dehumanising effect of the division of labour as they’re
regarded as mere objects and sources of profit maximisation, this is as
‘the worker becomes all the poorer the more wealth he produces.’ Meaning that
regardless of the job, ‘the product of labour is labour ‘. This is seen as the
simple fact the labour isn’t seen as anything, the more valued the product the
less value the labourer. This
objectification of labour was very common and expected in an industrial society
as industrial production involved the belief that each worker is an instrument
and not a person. An example includes workers would be mainly concerned with
shaping the good to the taste of the customer in order to maximise profits.

This has also been suggested by Ritzer,
who clearly in the McDonaldlisation of society has made it clear that employers
such as McDonald’s have implemented Adam Smith’s division of labour in their
operations which has, as a result, allowed us to ‘become a nation driven by
rationality, speed and efficiency’ (ritzer pg 1) this is clearly evident in
contemporary society in the way that food is packaged and in the way that the
service is designed once again bringing up the point of the assembly line which
is also used in giving the customers ‘the modern eating experience’. Thus,
notions of the division of labour have been implemented in modern day society
in their management systems in the case of McDonald’s, to provide customers
with the perfect eating experience.

However,
there is a suggested remedy for this which is that a balanced human development
can only happen when people are able to express their nature in the diversity
of the work they do.

.In the 21st Century,
as we move more towards a technological society, it is likely that the division
of labour model can be replicated with robots because the tasks are monotonous
and do not require human creativity.  For
that reason, Karl Marx’s theories are likely to be more relevant based on
this. 

It
has come to the point the many jobs have been replaced by machinery this
particularly happened after the industrial revolution where there was an
introduction to the to the use of machines to effectively compete tasks, for
example, the heavy lifting or very simple repetitive tasks. According to
Federick Winslow pg4, ‘the greatest prosperity can exist only as the
result of the greatest possible productivity of the men and machines of the
establishment’. This, as a result, means that the use of man alongside the use
of machines contributes to greater productivity and due to greater outputs
being produced this is meeting various goals of businesses with one being the
maximisation of profits as employers can employ less whilst gaining more.

This also brings me to another
effect the division of labour is having on society, and this is that the wages
aren’t keeping up. According to economist such as Robert Slow even though
productivity has in recent years increased by a large percentage, the actual
compensation for this labour has barely increased, because as I have already
mentioned, many jobs have been taken up by machines, for example, the packaging
of certain products. A further great example is McDonald’s where fewer cashiers
are needed due to the self-checkouts and in Banks where recently there have
been a staggering number that have been closed as a result in their usage being
decreased whilst the online usage increased.

In conclusion, the focus of
businesses is on outcomes and the process is streamlined to make it fast and
efficient for the paying customers. Thus, the profit is the motivator and the
human labour is seen as a means to an end as according to Fedrick Taylor people
only worked for money thus factors such as the technical division of labour
should be controlled by the main management enforcers (managers). This would
contribute to the businesses efficiency. Fast food chains are part of a
contemporary society and are considered successful and often used as a metaphor
in characterising some general trends in contemporary society as they have
adopted this theory in their decision-making process. This topic is still of
interest to people of today because it splits numerous operations into minute
tasks that can easily be performed by machinery which at the same time deskills
workers through specialisation and promotes technical unemployment leading to a
decline in the rise of wages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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