The factory emerged from the days of the industrial revolution. The concept division of labour and the factory has always created controversies between Marxists, socialists, feminists and capitalists. Division of labour is a central feature of capitalistic economic systems (Bradley 2010, p.6). It creates different levels of workers in an economy. Labour is a fundamental feature of production and directly impacts on the performance of an economy. Karl Marx called for abolition of labour division since it alienates an individual from his work. In his alienation theory Karl Marx posited that division of labour leads to an unequal wage system, giving rise to private property which in turn causes the emergence of social classes.
Labour commercializes the creative activities of human beings by making work a mean of a survival. The worker is willing to sell his/her labour at any means and at any price so as to be able to sustain his or her livelihood. Work becomes a necessary tool as its sole purpose is to sustain existence (Johnson 2011, p.32). The worker does not enjoy labour; one regards work as a sacrifice and compromise that does not add aesthetic value to his or her life. Division of labour means that wages are paid according to the position a labourer holds and the amount of effort he dedicates to his work (Mackenzie 2007, p.8). Workers overburden themselves with work in order to earn as much money as possible. They sacrifice their freedom and work for longer hours. Karl Marx supposes that by doing so the value of their life is reduced. The harder the workers labour, the more hours they work, the more money the factory owners earn. Furthermore, the richer the factory owners become, the poorer a worker becomes. This is because on the labour market, the worker is a commodity and if he is not deriving value from his work then he is a cheap commodity.
Division of labour by capitalists divides the community and the individual. The individual is restricted to perform only the duties that set aside for him leaving no space for individual development and personal growth. The individual plays only a fixed role that does not leave room for other activities (Gorz 2009, p.16). Division of labour is responsible for the distinctions in human society; it divides blue collar workers from white collar workers; divides the rulers from the ruled; furthermore, the employees and the employers and the urban population from the rural population (Bradley 2010, p.28). Thus, it creates constraints in the social order and results in conflicts between different individuals. Society is divided into two major classes on the basis of the division of labour the owners of the means of production (owners of capital), and the workers (owners of labour). The owners of private property have power over workers. The individual is dependent on his work and is just like another machine in the factory. One becomes physically and intellectually depressed as is suggested just an accessory to increase the wealth of the factory owner.
Division of labour increases productivity, wealthy and prosperity for the society but creates inequalities in the process (Johnson 2011, p.18). The worker has to compete with the other workers in the society in order to live. Some workers end up with crippling parts of their body and draining their mind while trying to eke out a living. Work is not voluntary as the role of the worker is defined by the owners of the means of production and the society. The work ends up enslaving the worker instead of empowering him (Johnson 2011). It is a means that the bourgeoisie exploit the proletariat.
Karl Marx’s view on division of labour is controversial and is opposed by several scholars. For instance in his book, The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith argues that the high income levels in developed countries are a result of highly organized division of labour (Gorz 2009, p.42). Economic growth is based on the productivity of workers and the proportion of productive to unproductive labourers. Productivity of worker is regarded as the most important feature and it is dependent on the division of labour. Moreover, division of labour is important in the labour market for various reasons it improves the expertise and skills of the worker; allows the worker to create a schedule revolving around his or her schedule and therefore he or she is in a position to manage time more effectively; and it puts the worker in an environment where one has to be innovative and inventive. When individuals specialize in their careers they are able to become more productive as they often specialize in areas where they have stronger skills. Division of labour increase results in the acquisition of more knowledge which in turn contributes to technological advancement (Rattansi 2008, p.10).
Accumulation of capital serves as an important role in the growth of the economy. Capital cannot be accumulated without division of labour. Efficient division of labour provides entrepreneurs with an avenue in order to deploy capital in the most productive way. Labour is directly proportionate to the amount of stock in the owner’s factory (Johnson 2011, p.29). When labour is divided according to the quantity of stock it is possible to accumulate more capital. When capital increases, it becomes possible to hire more workers. Moreover, work becomes easier as the employer is able to buy more machines. In order to ensure that the workers retain their jobs, it becomes imperative to obtain more stock resulting to greater circulation of capital in the economy and creation of more job opportunities (Johnson 2011, p.15).
Adam further argues that when labour is divided in a firm or factory the quality of production and the level of efficiency increases. The company is divided into departments; thus, each department strives to do its best to contribute to the productivity of the firm. The firm is able to expand and create new products as well as establish new branches in the economy (Mackenzie 2007, p.38). The only obstacle to efficiency of division of labour is the market. Division of labour enables a worker to obtain surplus salary but it is impossible to get all the commodities he or she needs in the market (Mackenzie 2007, p.46). In the case of a firm or a factory, specialization of skills only results in profits if there is a high demand of the goods produced by the firm on the market. Division of labour accelerates the rate at which capital has accumulated as a result of which the disposable income in an economy increases. Division of labour is more efficient in the manufacturing industry than in agriculture because the demand for agricultural products is limited but there is no boundary for demand of manufactured products (Gorz 2009, p. 19). There is a direct connection between demand on the market and growth of the economy.
People with disposable income are the ones responsible for fuelling economic growth. They possess luxurious goods to ensure that they are respected and admired by the rest of the masses. Before the advent of manufacturing, people spent their surplus income on hiring servants. The habit hampered economic growth by increasing the number of unproductive labourers and reducing the market for manufactured products (Harding 2012, p.12). Industrialization ensured that people stopped working as servants and they had more disposable income earned from their lucrative factory jobs. Thus, the noble class started to spend money that was previously spent on servants on buying manufactured goods.
Division of labour is responsible for increasing returns in the economy. Smith’s theory can be summarized as follow: division of labour increases productivity of workers increasing returns in the economy; division of labour is more productive in the manufacturing centre than in the agricultural market; there is infinite demand for manufactured goods on the market; and individuals have a tendency to spend their surplus income on manufactured goods of their desire. Motivation is increased by awarding the best workers after labour has been divided (Hamilton & Barett 2009, p.26).
Adam Ferguson also disputed Adam Smith’s theory of specialization of labour. Ferguson shared similar sentiments with Karl Marx on how capitalism ends up alienating and exploiting the worker. Rather than focus on the economic consequences of division of labour, he focused on its social consequences (Mackenzie 2009, p.38). According to him, division of labour does not emerge from specialization. It stems from the diverse nature of human beings and is powered by environmental factors such as the need to confront the obstacles faced by human beings in their daily lives. Division of labour contributes to progress of the owners of factories while simultaneously contributing to retrogression of the workers. Ferguson agrees that division of labour results in increasing of population, increasing in wealth and accumulation of skills. However, it does so at the expense of exploiting the worker and preventing him from enjoying the benefits of specialization since he is doomed to labour forever (Gorz 2009, p.42).
Division of labour contributes to solidarity and cohesiveness in the society since human beings are the only animals who are able to distribute duties in the society (Harding 2012, p.66). He, however, adds that specialization leads to a distinction between manual labour and mental labour. Those employed in manual labour end up being degraded and debased by the labour. Mechanical work renders the worker who specializes in it unfit for services in the public. Those people who work in the manual sector become machines and a part of other equipment in the factory. Their emotions are suppressed completely and they lose their human values making them feel worthless in the society (Bradley 2010, p.22).
Feminists borrow their ideology from Karl Marx in order to illustrate how division of labour results in the suppression and oppression of women. Men were the owners of the means of production since they were the owners of the private property (Hamilton and Barett 2009, p.56). Because women could not own property, they had no alternative other than to work for men as labourers. This alienated them to feel degraded and used. Important work in the society was done by men while women were left to do the work that society did not consider as having any significant value such as cooking and bearing children (Harding 2012, p.28).
The concept of division of labour in the factory has generated debate and controversy from as early as the seventeenth century. It has spawned a lot of ideologies and distinct schools of thought. Adam Smith was the staunchest defender of division of labour and showed how it brought prosperity to the society. It is, however, clear that Ferguson and Karl Marx were right when they stated that it resulted in alienation and explanation of the worker. Most modern societies are highly unequal characterized by wide gaps between the rich who own the means of production and members of the ruling political class and the poor who are the workers and subjects of the ruling class. Division of labour has contributed to rise of the middle class comprised of the white collar workers who work in mental jobs. Blue collar workers in manual jobs are at the lowest cadre of society.