labour, division of
The separation of a work process into a number of tasks, with each task performed by a separate person or group of persons. It is most often applied to mass-production systems, where it is one of the basic organizing principles of the assembly line. Breaking down work into simple, repetitive tasks eliminates unnecessary motion and limits the handling of tools and parts. The consequent reduction in production time and the ability to replace craftsmen with lower-paid, unskilled workers result in lower production costs and a less expensive final product. The Scottish economist Adam Smith saw in this splitting of tasks a key to economic progress by providing a cheaper and more efficient means of producing economic goods.

The French scholar Émile Durkheim first used the phrase in a sociological sense in his discussion of social evolution. Rather than viewing division of labour as a consequence of a desire for material abundance, Durkheim stated that specialization arose from changes in social structure caused by an assumed natural increase in the size and density of population and a corresponding increase in competition for survival. Division of labour functioned to keep societies from breaking apart under these conditions.

The intensive specialization in industrial societies--the refinement and simplification of tasks (especially associated with a machine technology) so that a worker often produces only a small part of a particular commodity--is not usually found in nonindustrialized societies. There is rarely a division of labour within an industry in nonliterate communities, except perhaps for the production of larger goods (such as houses or canoes); in these cases the division is often a temporary one, and each worker is competent to perform other phases of the task. There may be some specialization in types of product (e.g., one worker may produce pottery for religious uses; another, pottery for ordinary uses), but each worker usually performs all steps of the process.

A division of labour based on sex appears to be universal, but the form that this takes varies widely across cultures. Divisions on the basis of age, clan affiliation, hereditary position, or guild membership, as well as regional and craft specialization, are also found.


A system of social organization in which property and the distribution of income are subject to social control rather than individual determination or market forces.
Socialism refers to both a set of doctrines and the political movements that aspire to put these doctrines into practice. Although doctrinal aspects loomed largest in the early history of socialism, in its later history the movements have predominated over doctrine, so much so that there is no precise canon on which the various adherents of contemporary socialist movements agree. The most that can be said is that socialism is, in the words of Anthony Crosland, a British socialist, "a set of values, or aspirations, which socialists wish to see embodied in the organization of society."

Although it is possible to trace adumbrations of modern socialist ideas as far back as Plato's Republic, Thomas More's Utopia, and the profuse Utopian literature of the 18th-century Enlightenment, realistically, modern socialism had its roots in the reflections of various writers who opposed the social and economic relations and dislocations brought by the Industrial Revolution. They criticized what they conceived to be the injustice, the inequalities, the suffering brought about by the capitalist mode of production and the free and uncontrolled market on which it rested. To the acquisitive individualism of their age they opposed a vision of a new community of producers bound to each other through fraternal solidarity. They conceived of a future in which the masses would wrest control of the means of production and the levers of government from the capitalists. (See capitalism.)

Although the great majority of men calling themselves socialists in the 19th and 20th centuries have shared this vision, they have disagreed about its more specific ideas. Some of them have argued that only the complete nationalization of the means of production would suffice to implement their aims. Others have proposed selective nationalization of key industries, with controlled private ownership of the remainder. Some socialists insist that only strong centralized state direction and a command economy will suffice. Others advocate a "market socialism" in which the market economy would be directed and guided by socialist planners.

Socialists have also disagreed as to the best way of running the good society. Some envisage direction by the government. Others advocate as much dispersion and decentralization as possible through the delegation of decision-making authority to public boards, quasi-public trusts, municipalities, or self-governing communities of producers. Some advocate workers' control; others would rely on governmental planning boards. Although all socialists want to bring about a more equal distribution of national income, some hope for an absolute equality of income, whereas others aim only at ensuring an adequate income for all, while allowing different occupations to be paid at different rates.

"To each according to his need" has been a frequent battle cry of socialists, but many of them would in fact settle for a society in which each would be paid in accordance with his contribution to the commonwealth, provided that society would first assure all citizens minimum levels of housing, clothing, and nourishment as well as free access to essential services such as education, health, transportation, and recreation.

Socialists also proclaim the need for more equal political rights for all citizens, and for a levelling of status differences. They disagree, however, on whether difference of status ought to be eradicated entirely, or whether, in practice, some inequality in decision-making powers might not be permitted to persist in a socialist commonwealth.

The uses and abuses of the word socialism are legion. As early as 1845, Friedrich Engels complained that the socialism of many Germans was "vague, undefined, and undefinable." Since Engels' day the term socialism has been the property of anyone who wished to use it. The same Bismarck who as German chancellor in the late 1870s outlawed any organization that advocated socialism in Germany declared a few years later that "the state must introduce even more socialism in our Reich." Modern sophisticated conservatives, as well as Fascists and various totalitarian dictators, have often claimed that they were engaged in building socialism.