Sociology Index

Division of Labour

Specialization of individuals to perform specific tasks and roles is division of labour. Economists such as Adam Smith and engineers such as Charles Babbage were among the proponents of division of labour. Adam Smith saw that the essence of industrialism was division of labour for a qualitative increase in productivity.

Division of labour is associated with the growth of trade and the rise of capitalism. Division of labour refers to the allocation of tasks to individuals or organisations according to the skills and equipment those organisations possess.

Sir William Petty took note of division of labour. He applied the principle to his survey of Ireland. His idea was to divide up the work so that large parts of it could be done by people with no extensive training.

Karl Marx's theoretical contributions is his sharp distinction between the economic division of labour and the social division of labour. According to him, some forms of labour co-operation are purely due to "technical necessity", others are a result of a social control function related to a social class and social status hierarchy.

In The Division of Labour in Society, David Émile Durkheim observes that the division of labour appears in all societies and positively correlates with societal advancement because it increases as a society progresses. Durkheim agreed with the positive effects of the division of labour as his theoretical predecessor, Adam Smith.