The Division of Labour and the Use of Money in Locke, Rousseau and Smith

“What is the impact of the division of labour and the use of money (and price systems) in Locke, Rousseau and Smith? What positive or negative effects do they have?"

Society is a complex structure, because it contains diverse elements, which interact with each other. In addition, modern society is also based on institutional systems, which establish mutual cooperation between people. For example, there are political, social or military institutes, which are all interacting in order to provide society with certain necessities. Therefore, all these elements are results of division of labour – the concept, which was presented by different philosophers many years ago. In addition, the concept of property and money has also been interesting to many scientists for a long period of time. In this essay I will argue that division of labour and price systems in Locke, Rousseau and Smith have more positive than negative effects.

In fact, money as well as division of power can have both negative and positive effects on society. However, different philosophers have their own opinion. For instance, division of power became the central element of construction of the ideal state for Plato. Nowadays many scholars believe that prosperity of any state can be defined by the amount of property, wealth and other important resources it has. Nevertheless, times are changing and that is why it is important to go back and analyze different theories, presented by modern as well as traditional philosophical schools. That is why it is important to analyze how Locke, Rousseau and Smith identify the influence of division of labour and the use of money in their famous works.

First of all, it is important to start analyzing society with idea of division of labor.To start with, division of labour was not the major goals in society, described by John Locke. Philosopher stressed that God having made man as a creature who, in God’s own judgment, ought not to be alone, drew him strongly—by need, convenience, and inclination—into society, and equipped him with understanding and language to keep society going and to enjoy it. Therefore, this phrase is already indicating that society is based on interaction between individuals and exchange of goods. Moreover, the same language made this cooperation possible. At the same time, Locke did not mention that people have different abilities to produce goods, which is a major idea of division of labour.

Nevertheless, Locke is approaching the concept of division of labour from the political point of view. He is analyzing the need of politically structured society. He stressed that when any numbers of men have in this way consented to make one community or government, that immediately incorporates them, turns them into a single body politic in whom the majority has a right to act on behalf of the rest and to bind them by its decisions. This is a typical system when the majority of people are delegating their power to the selected minority, which gains a right to define politics. This is also a certain form of division of labour, because political officials are assigned with special tasks and are obliged to act according to the will of their citizens.

John Locke is further analyzing this social contract theory and asks a very important question “If a man in the state of nature is as free as I have said he is—if he is absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest and subject to nobody—why will he part with his freedom. Thus, philosopher is trying to explain the need of the social contract and analyzes some of it benefits for society. For instance, Locke stressed that the great and chief purpose of men’s uniting into commonwealths and putting themselves under government is the preservation of their property. Therefore, this division of labour and power on political and nonpolitical is important for each citizen. As the result, these chosen political authorities become not only responsible for the welfare of the citizens, but for their safety and protection of their possessions.

Moreover, there is also an important division of power inside of this political group. Locke suggested creating popular legislative, judicial and executive branches. All of them have particular functions in the political process. For example, the legislative power that has a right to direct how the force of the commonwealth shall be employed for preserving the community and its individual members. It is also in charge of creating the laws while the executive branch is responsible for enforcing laws, created by the legislative body. Last but not least, there should always be an institution, which can effectively control society. This institution is a judicial branch, which should also be created in order protect citizens from violating the laws. This branch can also control the government from forcefully enforcing its private interest in political decisions.

Later on, Rousseau developed Lock’s idea about the social contract or, in other words, delegation of power to political authorities. Philosopher says that the problem is to find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate, and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone, and remain as free as before." This statement is similar to the Locke’s idea, who said that political authorities are chosen in order to defend your property. All in all, both Locke and Rousseau defend the idea of the social contract, because according to Locke it guarantees protection of private property and according to Rousseau it can solve the problem of protection of personal rights and freedom.  

In addition, Rousseau described some peculiarities of his social contract theory. The author said: "Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will, and, in our corporate capacity, we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole." According to this statement, social contract according to Rousseau is not dividing society by certain labour, but contributes to its unity. Nevertheless, this social contract creates the system of checks and balances between people and delegated authorities. Thus, this ability to control other branches is contributing to the building of trust between authorities.

In fact, Locke’s had a similar idea and he said that social contract is based on division of functions between political authorities. In fact, Rousseau is also dividing political authorities according to their tasks and responsibilities. Philosopher says that while legislative power can belong to people, the executive power cannot belong to the generality as legislature or Sovereign because it consists wholly of particular acts which fall outside the competency of the law, and consequently of the Sovereign, whose acts must always be laws. In such way Rousseau is also discussing the idea of division of labour on the political level.

All in all, according to both Locke and Rousseau, there should be a clear division of power in society. One of the reasons is that there should be an agent, who can provide communication between the state and citizens. That is why the government becomes that intermediate body who sets up between the subjects and the Sovereign, to secure their mutual correspondence, charged with the execution of the laws and maintenance of liberty, both civil and political. Philosophers are focusing on the idea of the social contract and division of labour on a political level. As the result, there are different positions, such as position of sovereign and government, who are responsible for defending common interests of citizens. Their role is important in the system of social relations, because they are also responsible for peace in the country and the absence of violation of common laws and agreements.

More to the point, the idea of division of labour is one of the most important for Adam Smith. The scholar claims that in the way in which 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. According to these words, each business and each trade is divided in the number of different operations, which are performed by certain professionals. This system resembles some mechanism, such as clock, which consists of different parts that work closely together. For instance, we cannot say that some product was produced by individual person, such as farmer or even a restaurant chef, because these products would always depend on the work of other people, who helped them produce it. Thus, Adam Smith says that labour, which is necessary to produce any complete manufacture, is almost always divided among a great number of hands.

Smith also says that this division of power has a number of important benefits. For example, it significantly contributes to the saving of the time which is commonly lost in passing from one species of work to another. Thus, by having qualified professionals there is no need to perform the same task by several individuals at a time. In addition, division of labour stimulated the invention of a great number of machines which facilitate and abridge labour, and enable one man to do the work of many. In this case, for example, by assigning the role of machine operator, it is possible to faster control the work and save time on human labour. Moreover, people get accustomed to performing the same tasks and they become true professionals in their work. Therefore, by increasing their working potential they begin to perform the same tasks faster as well as better.

Moreover, Adam Smith says that division of labour is a product of civilized society.  He stressed that division of labour is the necessary, though very slow and gradual, consequence of a certain propensity in human nature. He assumes that it took some time for people to understand that it is more rational to divide labour between individuals. Therefore, Smith says that only in civilized society individual stands at all times in need of the co-operation and assistance of great multitudes. Nevertheless, this statement can be debated, because Adam Smith is mixing together division of power in manufacture and in society. On the one hand, this division of professional labour in business and manufacture was significantly developed only after the period of industrialization and growth of capitalistic society. However, on the other hand, the idea of division of labour in society as a whole appeared long before the idea of capitalism or any other form of modern economic interaction. For instance, even in Ancient Greek Plato was defending his idea of division of social labour according to the natural abilities of each individual.

All in all, for Adam Smith’s division of labour reminds a certain treaty between people, who decided to divide their labour according to their professional interest. In addition, people agreed on this system, because they noticed the difference in their abilities and interests. However, Smith also claimed that the difference between the most dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street porter, for example, seems to arise not so much from nature, as from habit, custom, and education. Therefore, he thinks that it is always possible to develop some skills. In some way he is right, because there are a lot of modern educational institutions where students are allowed to choose their specialty and develop certain skills. Nevertheless, there are always some trades at which it is almost impossible to become professional without a talent, for example, in art or science.

Secondly, the idea of property, money and exchange of good is crucial for understanding how philosophers understood the society. First of all, it is necessary to analyze John Locke’s idea on material property. Therefore, it is important to stress that for Locke material property was always connected only to the one created by human. He begins his chapter with the words that God, who has given the world to men in common, has also given them reason to make use of it to the best advantage of life and convenience. In fact, from this religious perspective at the beginning of creation of our world there was only nature. That is why people had to use these natural resources in order to create different things, which can make their life more convenient. Locke says, though men as a whole own the earth and all inferior creatures, every individual· man has a property in his own person [= ‘owns himself’]; this is something that nobody else has any right to. Therefore, it means that if an individual created some property, only he has an ultimate right to use it and define its future.

Moreover, this individual property is always the result of his hard work. When somebody takes something from the state that nature has provided and left it in, he mixes his labour with it, thus joining to it something that is his own; and in that way he makes it his property. Therefore, unlike money, which can be acquired through different methods and even inherited or stolen, material property, according to Locke, is closely connected to its creator. For example, Locke stressed that someone who eats the acorns he picked up under an oak, or the apples he gathered from the trees in the forest, has certainly appropriated them to himself. Therefore, people should interact with nature in order to create their property, which is important for the survival, for example for the nourishment or shelter.

Nevertheless, there are also this material property is also limited. Locke said that nature did well in setting limits to private property through limits to how much men can work and limits to how much they need. Therefore, men should not acquire more property than he needs to sustain himself. That is why, people should always be guided by some sense moderation and define how much they need. Each man could appropriate by his labour as much of the things of nature as he could use, without detriment to others, because an equal abundance was still left to those who would work as hard on it. Nevertheless, times are changing and men started to desire more things than they need. In addition, men started to differentiate value of all this natural things, such as land, gold, fruits. In the long run, in order for everybody to understand the difference between the values of these things, people gave them different price and created money.

It is also important to return to the idea of value. Locke said the more durable things are, such as gold, silver and diamonds, the more value they have by agreement rather than because there is a real use for them in sustaining life.  This is also a certain paradox of natural state, because why would the person need diamond more than some food or shelter. Nevertheless, later on people decided that these valuable things can be exchanged on something vital for survival. In addition, the more these valuable things you possess, the less time you have to work in order to get basic things for life. Locke says that this invention of money gave them the opportunity to continue and enlarge their possessions. That is why, people started chasing for such valuable things, rather than continue working in order to get food and sustain themselves. It can also be said that money even demoralized people’s nature and morality in some way.

In addition, Rousseau is also describing the conflict between modern society and the nature of man, which is being spoiled by the civilization. Rousseau’s main idea is not focused on such questions as economic relations and personal possessions. Moreover, the right of property in Rousseau is also quite connected to idea of social contract. He says that every man has naturally a right to everything he needs; but the positive act which makes him proprietor of one thing excludes him from everything else. Therefore, society is no longer free in gaining personal property, because it depends on the monetary system, which is already guided by the institutions.

Unlike for Rousseau or Locke, materialism was a central idea for Adam Smith. Moreover, it is also important to mention that his idea of prosperity of nation is closely connected to the division of labour. Therefore, the more productive you organize your working process, the more you chance you have to earn money and gain material goods. In addition, Smith claimed that every man thus lives by exchanging, or becomes, in some measure, a merchant, and the society itself grows to be what a commercial society is properly. Therefore, division of labour is making people want to exchange the goods they produce.

It is important to mention that Smith also said that different goods have their own value. However, according to Adam Smith the word “value” can be quite controversial. He says that the one may be called ‘value in use;’ the other, ‘value in exchange.’ For instance, precious stones have less value in use, but they are extremely valuable when they are being exchanged. That is why money has become, in all civilized nations, the universal instrument of commerce, by the intervention of which goods of all kinds are bought and sold, or exchanged for one another. This system of exchange on money crated certain rules for people, in order to make process of exchanging more transparent.

All in all, it is interesting that Adam Smith says that labour is the real measure of the exchangeable value of all commodities. In addition, the more hard you work in order to get some commodity, the more price and value it will have. For instance, it is much harder to find diamonds than to collect apples. In addition, diamonds are more durable and that is why can later be exchanged on other things. That is why Smith says that what is bought with money, or with goods, is purchased by labour, as much as what we acquire by the toil of our own body. Therefore, labour is the main value, which, on the one hand, takes away your freedom and binds you to some responsibilities and, on the other hand, increases your possibility to purchase and exchange certain necessities. 

To sum everything up, Locke and Smith both identified the influence of division of labour and the use of money, while Rousseau analyzed only division of power. It is interesting to stress that Locke and Rousseau are approaching the concept of division of labour from political point of view. Both philosophers described the social contract theory, when majority of people is delegating its power to the minority. Therefore, they believe that division of labor is important on the state level and that should be division between citizens and political authorities. It is also important to select good politicians, because they are not only responsible for the welfare of the citizens, but for their safety and protection of their possessions.

Firstly, it can be concluded that Locke and Rousseau analyzed not division of labor between different groups of society, but described division of authority, which is based on political participation. In addition, they describe division of labor and function between this political groups. Locke suggested creating popular legislative, judicial and executive branches, which all have specific role in political process.Rousseau developed Locke’s idea of this social contract, adding that there is a specific checks and balances system between the people and delegated authority.In addition, he also says that in each society there should be an agent, who can provide communication between the state and citizens and this agent is usually a government.  Nevertheless, for Adam Smith the very idea of division of labour is more important. In fact, it is a central idea of his world. Smith said that each business and each trade is built on the principle of division of labour. There are many different operations, which are performed by certain professionals.

In fact, there are some advantages of division of labour. Smith also stressed that division of power has the next important benefits. For example, it can significantly save time, stimulate the invention of machines and encourage people to perform the same tasks faster as well as better. In addition, Smith said that naturally we are all having almost the same abilities and it is possible to develop some professional skills during our life. According to the theory of social contract, presented by Locke and Rousseau division of labor or, more accurately, division of authority, contributes to stability of the society. Therefore, political authorities are working more effectively is they all have their specific functions.

Secondly, the idea of material property and money was approached by these philosophers differently. For example, Locke refers to the natural state of man, saying that people can interact with nature in order to create their property. Then, when due to the social contract appears the state, political authority is responsible for protecting this property. Locke also says that unlike money, which can be acquired through different methods, and even inherited or stolen, property is closely connected to its creator. His ideas are very similar to the Smith’s argument about strong connection between division of labour and prosperity. Smith said thatlabour is the main value. On the one hand, it takes away your freedom.  On the other hand, it increases your possibility to purchase and exchange certain necessities.In spite Locke’s views, Rousseau’s main idea is not focused on such questions as economic relations and personal possessions.

To sum everything up, there are more advantages of division of labor and the use of property than disadvantages. Of course, division of money contributes to certain level of stability, when political authorities are protecting property of all the citizens. This is the idea of social contract, suggested by John Locke and Rousseau. In addition, all the philosophers say that division of labour stimulates exchange of products. Nevertheless, nowadays money does not motivating people to exchange goods. On the contrary, it only stimulates people to acquire more valuable things.

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