Discourse On the Origin of Inequality
The Divergent Opinions of Smith and Rousseau: Natural Sociability and Criticisms of the Division of Labor
Although Adam Smith is considered a great defender of commercial society and Jean-Jacques Rousseau one of its prominent critics, both thinkers share certain criticisms of the division of labor. The two acknowledge that splitting tasks among people leads to the creation of social distinction and to the futile pursuit of happiness in luxury. For Rousseau, the division of labor causes moral inequality- difference established by social convention. Cooperation with others enslaves the modern man by creating the right to property, which allows for the domination of the rich over the poor. Furthermore, the division of labor gives man new needs, those for other people and for material objects, that are meaningless compared to his natural needs (Rousseau 67). For Smith, the division of labor also creates frivolous needs, giving expression to human egoism. He finds it imprudent that people pursue luxury although the poorest members of society have enough to survive (Theory 181). In addition, Smith asserts that division of labor diminishes intellectual and physical competence because of its highly specialized nature (Wealth 782). Yet, despite his misgivings, Smith regards the division of labor as a beneficial economic mechanism. Thus, it...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 873 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 6708 literature essays, 1809 sample college application essays, 276 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in