The Wealth of Nations

Division of Labor

In book I the division of labor is presented as having positive impact on both the worker  and the entire society. In book V, however, the division of labor is presented by Adam Smith as deshumanism.  Is there not a contradiction between these two positions unless they are reconciliable ?

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In the first sentence of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith foresaw the essence of industrialism by determining that division of labour represents a qualitative increase in productivity. His example was the making of pins. Unlike Plato, Smith famously argued that the difference between a street porter and a philosopher was as much a consequence of the division of labour as its cause. Therefore, while for Plato the level of specialization determined by the division of labour was externally determined, for Smith it was the dynamic engine of economic progress. However, in a further chapter of the same book Smith criticizes the division of labour saying it can lead to "the almost entire corruption and degeneracy of the great body of the people. … unless government takes some pains to prevent it."[7] The contradiction has led to some debate over Smith's opinion of the division of labour.[8]Alexis de Tocqueville agreed with Smith: "Nothing tends to materialize man, and to deprive his work of the faintest trace of mind, more than extreme division of labour."[9] Adam Ferguson shared similar views to Smith, though was generally more negative.[10]