Sociology Index

Division of Labour

Division of labour is associated with the growth of trade and the rise of capitalism. The division of labour is the separation of tasks in any system so that participants may specialize. 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.

Anomie is the consequence not of the division of labor itself, but of those exceptional and abnormal circumstances under which otherwise contiguous groups become separated, thus preventing the adequate development of rules of conduct.

Adam Smith saw that the essence of industrialism was division of labour for a qualitative increase in productivity. Division of labour refers to the allocation of tasks to individuals or organisations according to the skills and equipment those organisations possess. Organic solidarity is a term used by David Émile Durkheim to refer to specialization of roles in which individuals and institutions become acutely dependent on others in a complex division of labour. Sexual division of labour is the allocation of work task on the basis of the sex of the person.

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. David Émile Durkheim agreed with the positive effects of the division of labour as his theoretical predecessor, Adam Smith.

Certain groups of people engage in definite forms of action which are repeated because they cling to the constant conditions of social life; when the division of labor brings these different groups and their actions together, the relations thus formed involves the same degree of regularity; and these relations, being repeated, become habitual, and, when collective force is added, are transformed into rules of conduct.

As David Émile Durkheim's work developed, however, he gradually relinquished the evolutionary optimism which underlay this mechanical, self-regulating conception of the division of labor, became increasingly attracted to socialism and the potentially regulatory function of occupational groups, and granted greater emphasis to the independent role of collective beliefs in social life.