Of The Division of Labour

Chapter 1 of The Wealth of Nations

3 min readNov 2, 2021

Over the past year, I have bought multiple books of which two were economic treatises. The first is A Wealth of Nations, the second is Capital. Given that Marx wrote Capital as an alternative to capitilism (and laid out the fundamentals of communism), it seemed only appropiate to me that I should read A Wealth of Nations first.

It is a lengthy book and one which had scarce an oppurtunity for me to penetrate beyond the first few chapters. And so both of them stayed unopened for a long time. They are also unusually resistant to my usual tactics of reading through long books. I am therefore going to change my tactics. I shan’t read alone these treatises that have changed and collapsed nations, but I shall read one chapter at a time every day and post the notes I have made here. I shall not update the text for the modern day as that is not the purpose of this exercise nor do I possess enough expertise to do so.

I hope this serves you well should you find yourself in such a similar predicament. With that, let us begin.

The Wealth of Nations and a notebook beside each other with “Chapter 1 The division of Labour” written in the notebook.

The effects of the division of labour are only realised in the increased production of the enterprises that undertake them. This can be seen more so in manufacturing than in agriculture and so the greatest and wealthiest of nations are defined by their increased production in the former.

Agriculture rarely produces an oppurtunity for the division of labour. The tasks being done are essentially the same, differing in the time and place they are done rather than the tools and methods required to do them. And so the agricultural output of Poland be similar to France, and of France be similar to England.

However, the silks of France are better than the silks of England for the sole reason that raw silk has a greater cost in England due to higher import duty (The silk was probably Chinese due to synthetic silk not being invented yet). Since France does not tax the raw silk they import, they are cheaper and of better quality.

However hardware and coarse woolens (I assume hardware implies tools and corase woolens means sweaters/jackets) in England are better and cheaper than that of France.

The reason that the division of labour leads to an increase in work is for the following 3 reasons:

  1. Increase in the dexterity of workmen for a particular skill. (Dexterity means the skill to do a task)
  2. Saving of time that is lost when switching between work.
    Explanation : When a single workmen does the entire manufacturing process, he must possess multiple skills and tools to be able to carry it all out. If he should make a sweater, then he should turn the wool into yarn and the yarn into strings and then stitch the cloth. He will lose time between tasks for each item that he creates.
    Should these tasks be carried out by seperate people then there is not time lost as each person focuses only on their task.
  3. The invention of Machines to save labour/cost.
    Should people only master one skill, they would be inclined and knowledgable to create machines to do the task for them more efficiently so that they may save their own time.
    However these machines could also be created by people who are observers of these tasks and can create a way to combine some of these tasks.


The division of labour is something that we see in our everyday lives during our work and it can be applied to many domains.

I arrived at the same conclusion (albeit unknowingly) about how a state is realised in a A State of One , so it’s nice to see that I am validated by the father of economics. However, it isn’t just a principle for economics. This principle can also be in societies. I shall write about this someday.




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