The Role Of Labor And Its Effects On A Capitalist System

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Two men, or more accurately speaking, two novels separated by nearly a century, both examine the importance of labor and its effects on a capitalist system. Adam Smith published the Wealth of Nations in 1776 in which he detailed his concept of the division of labor; a concept he believed would further the productivity of the labor market. In Capital, Volume 1, published in 1867, Karl Marx took a much different stance on the division of labor. Writing nearly a century after the publication of the Wealth of Nations, Marx was in the position of the critiquing Smith’s revolutionary theory of the division of labor. Instead of praising Smith, Marx saw the current state of labor and the capitalist model of society as degrading to the laborer. Through analysis of these two novels, one can see that there exists two very polarizing views on the potential of the division of labor. For Smith, the division of labor presented an entirely novel, almost experimental way to improve the efficacy of the market. As such, Smith praised the potential of the division of labor. Marx, writing one hundred years later, witnessed the reality that was the division of labor. He in turn viewed the division of labor as damaging to society. One factor in particular that divided Smith and Marx on the capabilities of labor--and, more specifically, the laborer--was technology. As the technology of their respective times was vastly different, so was their respective views of machinery. For one,

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