According to Marx, the mode of production is the structure of all societies in terms of labour and society. The form of labour influences the nature of society, and he identified societies such as ancient, feudal, and capitalist systems based on this. ‘Division of labour,’ on the other hand, is a social concept, according to Durkheim, who, unlike Marx, described the non-economic function of labour. Mechanical and Organic societies were the two types of societies he identified. Let us go through each perspective in detail for a better understanding.
Division of Labour
Durkheim and Marx lived during the ‘Industrial Revolution,’ which was taking place in Europe at the time. The Industrial Revolution was marked by a revolution in production techniques, as we learned earlier in this course. Small-scale, home commodity production gave way to large-scale, factory-based mass production. Not only was there change in the economic field. Poverty, violence, and other social problems increased as cities and their inhabitants developed. The social order and stability were in jeopardy. The traditional feudal system was disintegrating, and the modern, industrial world was forming.
Durkheim and Marx had to evolve or seek out reasons for what they saw in the society around them because of the social context in which they lived. We’ll see how they addressed the idea of division of labour in a different way. This was a practice that was becoming more visible as industrialisation progressed. The term ‘division of labour’ refers to the breaking down of a task into smaller components or processes. These tiny operations are carried out by separate people or groups of people, speeding up the activity’s completion.
Labour and Society according to Marx
Division of labour can be studied in two parts according to Marx-
Social division of labour: Every society has this. It is an inevitable process that must take place for individuals of a society to successfully do the necessary tasks to preserve social and economic existence. It’s a complicated mechanism for splitting all of society’s valuable forms of labour. For example, some people make food, while others make handicrafts, weapons, and so on. The practice of trading value between groups is aided by the social division of labour. Specialisation is sparked or accelerated by such exchanges.
Division of labour in industry or manufacturing: This is a procedure that is common in industrial civilizations that employ capitalism and the factory system. The production of a commodity is divided into multiple steps in this method. Each worker is only allowed to conduct or participate in a tiny process, such as assembly line work. This type of job is frequently tedious, monotonous, and repetitive. The goal of this division of labour is straightforward: to boost production. The more productive a company is, the more excess value it generates. Capitalists are motivated to organise manufacturing in a way that maximises output while minimising expenses by the generation of surplus-value. In modern industrial society, it is the division of labour that allows for the mass production of goods. Unlike social division of labour, in which independent producers create items and trade them with other independent producers, a manufacturing division of labour separates the worker from his product.
Durkheim’s theory of labour and society
Durkheim explains how the division of labour—the creation of specific jobs for specific people—benefits society by increasing a process’s reproduction potential and the workers’ skill set. It also creates a sense of solidarity among those who share those jobs. However, according to Durkheim, the division of labour serves more than just economic interests: it also promotes cultural and ethical order within a society. “The division of labour can only take place among members of a pre-existing society,” he claims. The division of work is proportional to a society’s dynamic or moral density according to him. This is characterised as a mix of a group’s or society’s population density and degree of socialisation.
According to him, there are two types of social solidarity, namely, mechanical and organic solidarity.
Mechanical solidarity establishes a direct link between the individual and society. That is, society is organised collectively, with all members of the group performing the same jobs and holding the same essential ideas. Durkheim said that the “collective consciousness,” frequently translated as “conscience collective,” means a shared belief system, and is what links the individual to society. Society, on the other hand, is more complex in terms of organic solidarity—a system of interconnected functions bound by defined ties. Each individual must have a separate profession or activity as well as a different personality.
Comparison of both theories of labour and society
Both Durkheim and Marx distinguish between the division of labour in simple civilizations and the division of labour in sophisticated industrial societies. The division of labour is an unavoidable and fundamental component of any society’s socioeconomic activity. However, industrial civilizations are more concerned and interested in the division of labour. In industrial societies, Durkheim explains the division of labour as a result of greater material and moral density. As we previously discussed, he views specialisation or division of labour as a technique of easing competition or the struggle for survival. Because each person has a unique role to play in society, specialisation allows big groups of people to live and work together without conflict. It is only through collaboration and coexistence that this is achievable.
The division of labour in manufacturing is also a hallmark of industrial society, according to Marx. Unlike Durkheim, however, he does not consider it as a way of coexistence and cooperation. Rather, he sees it as a process that is imposed on workers for capitalists to profit. He considers it to be a process that is inextricably related to the existence of private property. The capitalist has a monopoly on the means of production. As a result, the capitalist must devise a production process that maximises profit.
As a result, workers are forced to divide their labour. They sell their labour force to capitalists in exchange for payment. They are relegated to mundane, uninteresting, and unimaginative tasks for production to rise and capitalist profits to rise. To summarise, Durkheim claims that the causes of division of labour include the requirement for humans to cooperate and perform a range of activities for industrial society to survive. According to Marx, employees are forced to divide their labour for capitalists to profit. Marx emphasises exploitation and conflict, whereas Durkheim emphasises collaboration.