Mediation and the Division of Labor

Peter De Bolla

in This Is Enlightenment

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780226761473
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226761466 | DOI:
Mediation and the Division of Labor

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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This chapter traces the steps by which Adam Smith developed a new concept—the division of labor—out of a chain of terms that depended upon and followed from one another: the division of the manufacturing process, worker specialization, machines, productivity gains that are (mathematically) sublime, and time and speed as a coefficient of the cost of labor that “saves time,” among other things. It shows that what held this chain of terms together and gave Smith's interpretation of political economy its coherence was his invention of a new load-bearing concept, the concept of “the division of labor”.

Keywords: Adam Smith; manufacturing process; worker specialization; machines; productivity gains; time; labor

Chapter.  6518 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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