Man's Place in a Labor-Driven Society
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Man\'s Place in a Labor-Driven Society
In his book The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith introduces a theory which attempts to figure out the
definition of labor and its place in society. His concept of labor is divided into three main postulates. His
first postulate states that basically, man\'s wants are unlimited. His second postulate states that man\'s goal is
to make his labor more efficient. Finally, his third postulate states that this efficiency/division of labor
results in a wealthy society. It is these three postulates that propels Smith\'s concept of labor and a better
society for all mankind.
Smith carefully studied man\'s nature, as we see from his references to the hunter- gatherer society, in
order to come up with his first postulate. In it, he states that man is not content with simply surviving. He
always wants more, and he attempts to accumulate material goods in order to satisfy this need. Smith goes
on to say that each person tries to meet this insatiable desire in the form of work, or labor. This interest in
acquiring more, Smith states, drives man to labor in a most rewarding way (p.19). Through his study of
man\'s nature, Smith found that man naturally takes this labor and tries to make it better; a more rewarding
experience for himself - thus, Smith\'s second postulate is born.
"The division of labor,...occasions,...a proportional increase of the productive powers of labor" (p.9).
In this statement, Smith concludes that any system that increases the produce of labor is, by definition,
efficient. He recognizes this system through mentioning the fact that men\'s talents differ from person to
person. As stated by Smith, most men are particularly suited for labor in one field. Since it is man\'s nature
to produce more and more through his labor, he would "apply himself to a particular occupation" in which
he is skilled (p.19). This leads to the division of labor, in which simplifying the tasks of labor results in
increased product - "Men are much more likely to discover easier and readier methods of attaining any
From this increased efficiency, Smith derives his third and final postulate. He claims that this
increased efficiency leads to greater power over labor - increased wealth. This is due to the fact that man
has a higher amount of labor to exchange after the division than before it. This wealth is proportioned out
through society, and Capitalism is born. In this society, more efficient laborers receive more wealth than
inefficient laborers. This imbalance stems from the free competition of Smith\'s theory, which, in his mind,
will in time increase the wealth of the entire nation.
By studying man\'s nature, his need for labor, and his desire to become more efficient, Smith shows
that the society of man logically evolves from not being able to satisfy one\'s wants to developing the means
to secure the majority of them. All in all, society evolves from inefficient to efficient, which soon leads
from a poor nation to a wealthy one.
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Production economics, Social philosophy, Marxian economics, Adam Smith, Capitalism, The Wealth of Nations, Division of labour, Wealth, Capital, Volume I, Labor theory of value
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