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Unformatted text preview: Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations , 1776 Adam Smith (1723-90) was a Scottish philosopher. He held chairs in logic and moral philosophy at Glasgow University from 1751 through 1763, but then resigned to travel around Europe as private tutor to a young aristocrat. He not only met some of Europe’s leading thinkers but also made enough money to retire in 1766, and spent the next ten years writing his most famous book, The Wealth of Nations. Smith intended this primarily as a work in moral philosophy, showing how the invisible hand of the market produces the greatest possible good for all. Book I, Chapter 1 The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labor, 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 labor. The effects of the division of labor, 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 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 labor has been very often taken notice of, the trade of the pin-maker; a workman not educated to this business (which the division of labor 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 labor 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 straightens 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...
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This note was uploaded on 05/03/2010 for the course IHUM 69 taught by Professor Morris during the Spring '10 term at Stanford.
- Spring '10