Socio-economic law of the division of labor

The regularity of the division of labor is due to a historically objective process that creates the prerequisites for the economic, political and intellectual development of mankind. “Although the division of labor has not existed since yesterday,” noted the French sociologist E. Durkheim (1858-1917), “but only at the end of the last century did societies begin to realize this law, which until that time had governed them almost without their knowledge” (Durkheim E. On the division of social labor. Method of Sociology. M., 1990. p. 43). There is no doubt that already in antiquity some thinkers noted the importance of the separation of labor functions, but the first to try to develop a theory of the division of labor was Adam Smith, who created this term himself. He believed that the division of labor is by no means the result of someone’s wisdom, which foresaw and realized the general welfare that it generates: it is a consequence – albeit very slowly and gradually developing – of a certain inclination of human nature. namely, the tendency to exchange, trade, to exchange one item for another.

In the organizational and technical aspect, the division of labor correlates with a change in its content as a way of connecting the producer with the means of production, determined by the level of development of the productive forces. In the socio-economic aspect, the division of labor correlates with a change in its character as a way of connecting the producer with the means of production, determined by the level of development of production (economic) relations. Paving its way spontaneously and at the same time as an objective necessity, this law determines the dynamics of the division of labor into its various types (physical and mental, industrial and agricultural, qualified and unskilled, executive and managerial, etc.) and at the same time – the basis for the division of society into social groups of people employed by these types of labor and the relationship between groups depending on their social status and prestige of labor.

The law of the division of labor, the earliest of all, originated in a slave-owning society, in conditions of almost complete separation of mental activity from the tasks of material production. Essential features of the division of labor in the ancient era was the development of labor cooperation, without which the labor of slaves equipped with primitive tools could not ensure the performance of titanic work. Here the justice of the fact that labor is organized and divided differently, depending on what tools it has, is especially clearly visible. The division of labor in society and the workshop was carried out not for the sake of reducing the time spent on the production of a unit of production, but for the sake of achieving the perfection of the product. This was due to the natural nature of slave production, the interest of the worker not in value, but in use value. The preservation of this principle had a beneficial effect on the development of the productive forces of the worker. Even under conditions of slavery, there was a process of accumulation of knowledge among the people.

The peculiarities of the division of labor in the feudal era are related to the nature of feudal property, for property born of the division of labor has a strong inverse effect on the division of labor. In accordance with the two forms of ownership (land – feudal lords and corporate – artisans), the general division of labor into agricultural and handicraft acquired increasingly sharp features. The fact that the concentration of property in the city was becoming less than in the countryside caused the city to lose its former dominance. The beginning of fundamental changes was associated with the isolation in the cities of trade from production and the concentration of trade relations in the hands of a special layer – merchants. The separation of production from trade caused a new division of labor – between cities. The consequence of the division was the emergence of manufactories that determine the division of labor within the enterprise.

In the technical and organizational aspect, the manufactory represented a necessary historical stage in the progressive development of production, the formation of its harmonious organization (albeit on an empirical basis) in the interests of increasing labor productivity. In the socio-economic aspect, the manufactory was a special method of production relative to surplus value, reflecting the level of development of socio-economic relations in society. At the same time, the division of labor within the workshop revealed its destructive effect on the personality of the worker: the division of labor into mental and physical reached its apogee; the distance between the level of knowledge and culture of representatives of mental and physical labor has increased dramatically; the spiritual potencies of the material process of production emerged as alien property and a force dominating the worker.

The power of the destructive effect of the division of labor on the personality of the worker in the manufactory period was so great that philosophers, sociologists, historians expressed deep concern about the fate of human progress. “A man,” wrote A. Smith, “whose whole life is spent in the performance of a few simple operations … has no occasion and no need to refine one’s mental faculties or exercise one’s ingenuity and becomes as stupid and ignorant as a human being can become. His agility and skill in his special profession appear to have been acquired through his mental, social and volitional qualities. But in every developed civilized society, it is in this state that the working poor, i.e. the main mass of the people, must inevitably fall into” (Smith A. Study on the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. M., 1993. T. 1. P. 88.).

In the period of early capitalism, the manufactory division of labor created the preconditions for the emergence of a large machine industry. Approaching the increasing synchronicity of operations marked the beginning of a harmonious organization of production and the continuity of production processes. On the basis of these prerequisites, the industrial revolution of the XVIII – the first half of the XIX century was carried out, the essence of which is in the grandiose jump in the level of productivity of social labor, carried out by replacing manufactory production with production based on the use of a system of machines.

Thus, the division of labor qualitatively changes its character and becomes revolutionary from evolutionary when science turns into a necessary component of production. The first manifestation of the influence of science on the division of labor within the enterprise was expressed in the fact that in the system of machines the division of labor began to be determined by an objective production mechanism (in contrast to the manufactory, where it was determined by a subjective factor).

The second manifestation of the impact of science on the division of labor within the enterprise is that “machine production destroys the need to manufactory fix … distribution, to attach the same workers forever to the same functions” (Marx K., Engels F. Soc. 2nd ed. Vol. 23. p. 432.). This impact of science on the division of labor is fraught with the possibility of overcoming professional degradation and satisfying the emerging objective need of production for a universal labor force. Embodied in automatic systems of machines, science constantly makes revolutions in the technical basis of production, and at the same time the functions of workers, requiring their retraining.

The third manifestation of the impact of science on the division of labor within the enterprise is associated with the main direction in changing the functions of the aggregate worker: the introduction of scientific achievements into production changes the proportions in the totality of functions associated with the expenditure of mental energy, and reduces the volume of performing functions associated mainly with the expenditure of physical energy. The ratio of the costs of mental and physical labor becomes the main indicator of scientific and technological progress. As this pattern develops, the division of labor becomes the main factor in the development of a universal labor force in the labor market.

The transformation of science into a direct productive force in the world capitalist economy entails fundamental changes not only in the functions of workers, but also in the social combinations of the labor process, as a result of which the division of labor in society is revolutionized. Changes in the social division of labor that follow each major improvement continuously throw masses of capital, and hence masses of workers from one industry to another. If until the middle of the XX century. the determining influence on the US economy was exerted by a small number of industries (electric power, railway construction, automotive industry), then in the 80-90s about 180 new types of production (nuclear industry, rocket engineering, machine tool building with program control, microelectronics, etc.) actively affected the economy.

New, cost-effective directions are constantly emerging and absorbing huge masses of the workforce. New industries are being created on a new technical basis, and traditional industries, seeking to withstand competition, are modernizing. As industries are equipped with the latest achievements of science and technology, the process of pushing the labor force out of the sphere of production takes place. Thus, in 1900, the share of “white collar workers” in the total employed population of the United States was 17.6%, in 1940 – 31, in 1970 – 44, in 1989 – 58, in 1990 – 65% (for comparison: in the Republic of Belarus the number of employees was in 1991 27.8%, workers – 59.1, collective farmers – 13.1%). Thus, the revolutionization of the division of labor is associated with a change in the structure of the aggregate labor force, characterized by a sharp increase in the proportion of knowledge workers and a decrease in physical labor workers.