Aristotle and Plato Division Of Labor

Plato Theories and Aristotle Theories

Division of Labor


Plato's discussion of specialization and exchange clearly suggests the idea of "division of labor." In­deed, the Greek philosophers' concept of division of labor, while crude, is the ultimate father of the later discussions of Hutche-son, Hume, and Adam Smith. When, however, Plato says: ". . . we must infer that all things are produced more plenti­fully and easily and of a better quality when one man does one thing which is natural to him and does it at the right time, and leaves other things," he does not have in mind the complex modern questions connected with division of labor. The Greek philosophers refer merely to a simple separation of em­ployments, and their treatment lacks the significance that comes from the connection of the subject with a system of economics.

Their ideas concerning division of labor rested ultimately upon an analysis of human wants. The three primary wants of man, said they, are for food, clothing, and shelter. There­fore, there are at least husbandmen, weavers and shoemakers, and house builders; while smiths and carpenters come into existence to relieve the husbandmen. . Exchange among these makes a merchant class necessary. Few places, moreover, are self-sufficient, hence foreign traders and sailors find employ­ment. Meanwhile, another group, consisting of hirelings and slaves, arises. The function of the retail trades is validated on the ground that without them the seller might be compelled to wait or to depart with his goods undisposed of.