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Chapter 1

BOOK I.

OF THE CAUSES OF IMPROVEMENT IN THE PRODUCTIVE POWERS OF LABOUR, AND OF THE ORDER ACCORDING TO WHICH ITS PRODUCE IS NATURALLY DISTRlBUTED AMONG THE DIFFERENT RANKS OF THE PEOPLE.

CHAPTER I.

OF THE DIVISlON OF LABOUR.

The greatest improvements in the productive powers of labour, and the
greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment, with which it is
anywhere directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division
of labour. The effects of the division of labour, in the general business of
society, will be more easily understood, by considering in what manner it
operates in some particular manufactures. It is commonly supposed to be
carried furthest in some very trifling ones ; not perhaps that it really is
carried further in them than in others of more importance: but in those
trifling manufactures which are destined to supply the small wants of but a
small number of people, the whole number of workmen must necessarily be
small ; and those employed in every different branch of the work can often
be collected into the same workhouse, and placed at once under the view of
the spectator.

In those great manufactures, on the contrary. which are destined to supply
the great wants of the great body of the people, every different branch
of the work employs so great a number of workmen, that it is impossible to
collect them all into the same workhouse. We can seldom see more, at one
time, than those employed in one single branch. Though in such
manufactures, therefore, the work may really be divided into a much greater
number of parts, than in those of a more trifling nature, the division is
not near so obvious, and has accordingly been much less observed.

To take an example, therefore, from a very trifling manufacture, but one in
which the division of labour has been very often taken notice of, the
trade of a pin-maker: a workman not educated to this business (which the
division of labour has rendered a distinct trade, nor acquainted with the
use of the machinery employed in it (to the invention of which the same
division of labour has probably given occasion), could scarce, perhaps, with
his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make
twenty. But in the way in which this business is now carried on, not only
the whole work is a peculiar trade, but it is divided into a number of
branches, of which the greater part are likewise peculiar trades. One man
draws out the wire; another straights it; a third cuts it; a fourth points
it; a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head
requires two or three distinct operations ; to put it on is a peculiar
business; to whiten the pins is another ; it is even a trade by itself to
put them into the paper ; and the important business of making a pin is, in
this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some
manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the
same man will sometimes perform two or three of them. I have seen a small
manufactory of this kind, where ten men only were employed, and where some
of them consequently performed two or three distinct operations. But though
they were very poor, and therefore but indifferently accommodated with the
necessary machinery, they could, when they exerted themselves, make among
them about twelve pounds of pins in a day. There are in a pound upwards of
four thousand pins of a middling size. Those ten persons, therefore, could
make among them upwards of forty-eight thousand pins in a day. Each
person, therefore, making a tenth part of forty-eight thousand pins, might
be considered as making four thousand eight hundred pins in a day. But if
they had all wrought separately and independently, and without any of them
having been educated to this peculiar business, they certainly could not
each of them have made twenty, perhaps not one pin in a day; that is,
certainly, not the two hundred and fortieth, perhaps not the four thousand
eight hundredth, part of what they are at present capable of performing, in
consequence of a proper division and combination of their different
operations.

In every other art and manufacture, the effects of the division of labour
are similar to what they are in this very trifling one, though, in many of
them, the labour can neither be so much subdivided, nor reduced to so great
a simplicity of operation. The division of labour, however, so far as it
can be introduced, occasions, in every art, a proportionable increase of
the productive powers of labour. The separation of different trades and
employments from one another, seems to have taken place in consequence of
this advantage. This separation, too, is generally carried furthest in those
countries which enjoy the highest degree of industry and improvement; what
is the work of one man, in a rude state of society, being generally that of
several in an improved one. In every improved society, the farmer is
generally nothing but a farmer ; the manufacturer, nothing but a
manufacturer. The labour, too, which is necessary to produce any one
complete manufacture, is almost always divided among a great number of
hands. How many different trades are employed in each branch of the linen
and woollen manufactures, from the growers of the flax and the wool, to the
bleachers and smoothers of the linen, or to the dyers and dressers of the
cloth ! The nature of agriculture, indeed, does not admit of so many
subdivisions of labour, nor of so complete a separation of one business
from another, as manufactures. It is impossible to separate so entirely
the business of the grazier from that of the corn-farmer, as the trade of
the carpenter is commonly separated from that of the smith. The spinner is
almost always a distinct person from the, weaver; but the ploughman, the
harrower, the sower of the seed, and the reaper of the corn, are often the
same. The occasions for those different sorts of labour returning with the
different seasons of the year, it is impossible that one man should be
constantly employed in any one of them. This impossibility of making so
complete and entire a separation of all the different branches of labour
employed in agriculture, is perhaps the reason why the improvement of the
productive powers of labour, in this art, does not always keep pace with
their improvement in manufactures. The most opulent nations, indeed,
generally excel all their neighbours in agriculture as well as in
manufactures ; but they are commonly more distinguished by their superiority
in the latter than in the former. Their lands are in general better
cultivated, and having more labour and expense bestowed upon them, produce
more in proportion to the extent and natural fertility of the ground. But
this superiority of produce is seldom much more than in proportion to the
superiority of labour and expense. In agriculture, the labour of the rich
country is not always much more productive than that of the poor ; or, at
least, it is never so much more productive, as it commonly is in
manufactures. The corn of the rich country, therefore, will not always, in
the same degree of goodness, come cheaper to market than that of the poor.
The corn of Poland, in the same degree of goodness, is as cheap as that of
France, notwithstanding the superior opulence and improvement of the latter
country. The corn of France is, in the corn-provinces, fully as good, and in
most years nearly about the same price with the corn of England, though, in
opulence and improvement, France is perhaps inferior to England. The
corn-lands of England, however, are better cultivated than those of France,
and the corn-lands of France are said to be much better cultivated than
those of Poland. But though the poor country, notwithstanding the
inferiority of its cultivation, can, in some measure. rival the rich in the
cheapness and goodness of its corn, it can pretend to no such competition in
its manufactures, at least if those manufactures suit the soil, climate, and
situation, of the rich country. The silks of France are better and cheaper
than those of England, because the silk manufacture, at least under the
present high duties upon the importation of raw silk, does not so well suit
the climate of England as that of France. But the hardware and the coarse
woollens of England are beyond all comparison superior to those of France,
and much cheaper, too, in the same degree of goodness. In Poland there are
said to be scarce any manufactures of any kind, a few of those coarser
household manufactures excepted, without which no country can well subsist.

This great increase in the quantity of work, which, in consequence of the
division of labour, the same number of people are capable of performing, is
owing to three different circumstances ; first, to the increase of dexterity
in every particular workman ; secondly, to the saving of the time which is
commonly lost in passing from one species of work to another ; and, lastly,
to the invention of a great number of machines which facilitate and abridge
labour, and enable one man to do the work of many.

First, the improvement of the dexterity of the workmen, necessarily
increases the quantity of the work he can perform; and the division of
labour, by reducing every man's business to some one simple operation, and
by making this operation the sole employment of his life, necessarily
increases very much the dexterity of the workman. A common smith, who,
though accustomed to handle the hammer, has never been used to make nails,
if, upon some particular occasion, he is obliged to attempt it, will scarce,
I am assured, be able to make above two or three hundred nails in a day, and
those, too, very bad ones. A smith who has been accustomed to make nails,
but whose sole or principal business has not been that of a nailer, can
seldom, with his utmost diligence, make more than eight hundred or a
thousand nails in a day. I have seen several boys, under twenty years of
age, who had never exercised any other trade but that of making nails, and
who, when they exerted themselves, could make, each of them, upwards of two
thousand three hundred nails in a day. The making of a nail, however, is by
no means one of the simplest operations. The same person blows the bellows,
stirs or mends the fire as there is occasion, heats the iron, and forges
every part of the nail: in forging the head, too, he is obliged to change
his tools. The different operations into which the making of a pin, or of a
metal button, is subdivided, are all of them much more simple, and the
dexterity of the person, of whose life it has been the sole business to
perform them, is usually much greater. The rapidity with which some of the
operations of those manufactures are performed, exceeds what the human hand
could, by those who had never seen them, he supposed capable of acquiring.

Secondly, The advantage which is gained by saving the time commonly lost in
passing from one sort of work to another, is much greater than we should at
first view be apt to imagine it. It is impossible to pass very quickly from
one kind of work to another, that is carried on in a different place, and
with quite different tools. A country weaver, who cultivates a small farm,
must loose a good deal of time in passing from his loom to the field, and
from the field to his loom. When the two trades can be carried on in the same
workhouse, the loss of time is, no doubt, much less. It is, even in this
case, however, very considerable. A man commonly saunters a little in
turning his hand from one sort of employment to another. When he first
begins the new work, he is seldom very keen and hearty; his mind, as they
say, does not go to it, and for some time he rather trifles than applies to
good purpose. The habit of sauntering, and of indolent careless application,
which is naturally, or rather necessarily, acquired by every country workman
who is obliged to change his work and his tools every half hour, and to
apply his hand in twenty different ways almost every day of his life,
renders him almost always slothful and lazy, and incapable of any vigorous
application, even on the most pressing occasions. Independent, therefore, of
his deficiency in point of dexterity, this cause alone must always reduce
considerably the quantity of work which he is capable of performing.

Thirdly, and lastly, everybody must be sensible how much labour is
facilitated and abridged by the application of proper machinery. It is
unnecessary to give any example. I shall only observe, therefore, that the
invention of all those machines by which labour is to much facilitated and
abridged, seems to have been originally owing to the division of labour. Men
are much more likely to discover easier and readier methods of attaining any
object. when the whole attention of their minds is directed towards that
single object, than when it is dissipated among a great variety of things.
But, in consequence of the division of labour, the whole of every man's
attention comes naturally to be directed towards some one very simple
object. It is naturally to be expected, therefore, that some one or other of
those who are employed in each particular branch of labour should soon find
out easier and readier methods of performing their own particular work,
whenever the nature of it admits of such improvement. A great part of the
machines made use of in those manufactures in which labour is most
subdivided, were originally the invention of common workmen, who, being each
of them employed in some very simple operation, naturally turned their
thoughts towards finding out easier and readier methods of performing it.
Whoever has been much accustomed to visit such manufactures, must frequently
have been shewn very pretty machines, which were the inventions of such
workmen, in order to facilitate and quicken their own particular part of the
work. In the first fire engines {this was the current designation for steam
engines}, a boy was constantly employed to open and shut alternately the
communication between the boiler and the cylinder, according as the piston
either ascended or descended. One of those boys, who loved to play with his
companions, observed that, by tying a string from the handle of the valve
which opened this communication to another part of the machine, the valve
would open and shut without his assistance, and leave him at liberty to
divert himself with his play-fellows. One of the greatest improvements that
has been made upon this machine, since it was first invented, was in this
manner the discovery of a boy who wanted to save his own labour.

All the improvements in machinery, however, have by no means been the
inventions of those who had occasion to use the machines. Many improvements
have been made by the ingenuity of the makers of the machines, when to make
them became the business of a peculiar trade; and some by that of those who
are called philosophers, or men of speculation, whose trade it is not to do
any thing, but to observe every thing, and who, upon that account, are often
capable of combining together the powers of the most distant and dissimilar
objects. in the progress of society, philosophy or speculation becomes, like
every other employment, the principal or sole trade and occupation of a
particular class of citizens. Like every other employment, too, it is
subdivided into a great number of different branches, each of which affords
occupation to a peculiar tribe or class of philosophers ; and this
subdivision of employment in philosophy, as well as in every other business,
improve dexterity, and saves time. Each individual becomes more expert in
his own peculiar branch, more work is done upon the whole, and the quantity
of science is considerably increased by it.

It is the great multiplication of the productions of all the different arts,
in consequence of the division of labour, which occasions, in a
well-governed society, that universal opulence which extends itself to the
lowest ranks of the people. Every workman has a great quantity of his own
work to dispose of beyond what he himself has occasion for; and every other
workman being exactly in the same situation, he is enabled to exchange a
great quantity of his own goods for a great quantity or, what comes to the
same thing, for the price of a great quantity of theirs. He supplies them
abundantly with what they have occasion for, and they accommodate him as
amply with what he has occasion for, and a general plenty diffuses itself
through all the different ranks of the society.

Observe the accommodation of the most common artificer or daylabourer in a
civilized and thriving country, and you will perceive that the number of
people, of whose industry a part, though but a small part, has been employed
in procuring him this accommodation, exceeds all computation. The woollen
coat, for example, which covers the day-labourer, as coarse and rough as it
may appear, is the produce of the joint labour of a great multitude of
workmen. The shepherd, the sorter of the wool, the wool-comber or carder,
the dyer, the scribbler, the spinner, the weaver, the fuller, the dresser,
with many others, must all join their different arts in order to complete
even this homely production. How many merchants and carriers, besides, must
have been employed in transporting the materials from some of those workmen
to others who often live in a very distant part of the country ? How much
commerce and navigation in particular, how many ship-builders, sailors,
sail-makers, rope-makers, must have been employed in order to bring together
the different drugs made use of by the dyer, which often come from the
remotest corners of the world ? What a variety of labour, too, is necessary
in order to produce the tools of the meanest of those workmen ! To say
nothing of such complicated machines as the ship of the sailor, the mill of
the fuller, or even the loom of the weaver, let us consider only what a
variety of labour is requisite in order to form that very simple machine,
the shears with which the shepherd clips the wool. The miner, the builder of
the furnace for smelting the ore the feller of the timber, the burner of
the charcoal to be made use of in the smelting-house, the brickmaker, the
bricklayer, the workmen who attend the furnace, the millwright, the forger,
the smith, must all of them join their different arts in order to produce
them. Were we to examine, in the same manner, all the different parts of his
dress and household furniture, the coarse linen shirt which he wears next
his skin, the shoes which cover his feet, the bed which he lies on, and all
the different parts which compose it, the kitchen-grate at which he prepares
his victuals, the coals which he makes use of for that purpose, dug from the
bowels of the earth, and brought to him, perhaps, by a long sea and a long
land-carriage, all the other utensils of his kitchen, all the furniture of
his table, the knives and forks, the earthen or pewter plates upon which he
serves up and divides his victuals, the different hands employed in
preparing his bread and his beer, the glass window which lets in the heat
and the light, and keeps out the wind and the rain, with all the knowledge
and art requisite for preparing that beautiful and happy invention, without
which these northern parts of the world could scarce have afforded a very
comfortable habitation, together with the tools of all the different workmen
employed in producing those different conveniencies ; if we examine, I say,
all these things, and consider what a variety of labour is employed about
each of them, we shall be sensible that, without the assistance and
co-operation of many thousands, the very meanest person in a civilized
country could not be provided, even according to, what we very falsely
imagine, the easy and simple manner in which he is commonly accommodated.
Compared, indeed, with the more extravagant luxury of the great, his
accommodation must no doubt appear extremely simple and easy ; and yet it
may be true, perhaps, that the accommodation of an European prince does not
always so much exceed that of an industrious and frugal peasant, as the
accommodation of the latter exceeds that of many an African king, the
absolute masters of the lives and liberties of ten thousand naked savages.

Adam Smith

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