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Social and Detail Division of Labor

The social division of labor is the distribution of types of labor among particular social groups aimed at producing complete commodities. Each social group in a traditional society has specific tasks, such as the creation of a certain type of product. Braverman gives an example of the division of labor between the sexes (50). For instance, women can sew clothes, and men can build wooden buildings. They fully perform a specific type of product and distribute it.

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In contrast to the social division of labor, there is a division of labor in detail that is specific to manufacturing in societies with greater economic complexity. According to Braverman, “this is a breakdown of the processes involved in the making of the product into manifold operations performed by different workers” (50). Accordingly, employees do not create a product individually but perform a specific process related to its creation. Such a transition made it possible to arrange the flow production and move to the mass industrial economy, where each specialist has a narrow operational specialization.

However, some elements of the old system survived for a long time and led to social injustice. For example, Federici discusses free female household work in the era of paid labor (1). All production functions have been moved to the category of a job according to the detail division of labor. But the performance of women’s domestic tasks is not considered work and is used free of charge (Federici 2). This inconsistency is still not excluded from the social agenda.

Capitalist Market

The capitalist market is an economic system of production and distribution based on private property, legal equality, and freedom of entrepreneurship. The main criterion for making economic decisions is the desire to increase capital, to gain profit. Enterprises produce goods for a market, driven by supply and demand. Accordingly, the main goal of the entrepreneur is to spend fewer resources on production and to sell the goods at the highest possible price. Braverman, describing the formula of capitalism, writes that “no pains are too great, no efforts excessive, because the results will repay all efforts and expenses” (69). Even though capitalism encourages free enterprise initiative, in history, it has often led to exploitation.

For instance, the use of slave labor was driven precisely by economic considerations. Williams argues that racist theories justifying black slave labor only served to justify the use of cheap labor (19). This is the most obvious example of exploitation that has accompanied the formation of the capitalist market. However, women’s domestic work is also not paid in the capitalist system and can also be considered exploitation. Rice raises this issue in Mrs. Zero’s monologue in The Adding Machine (4). She claims to be carrying out a difficult job, spending her life, giving a man a home, without salaries or vacations (4). Thus, on the one hand, the capitalist market leads to a free business initiative that satisfies the demand, on the other hand, it can cause social injustice.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility is a concept according to which businesses should take into account the interests of society by analyzing and correcting their activities’ social impact. Various authors have different views on how business and society should relate to each other in this respect. Friedman (2007) states that the primary social responsibility of the company is its success and profitability, as the business function is to cover social demand according to the rules of the free market (175). He claims that when a company hires low-skilled workers or underprices for social reasons, it spends “someone else’s money for a general social interest” (Friedman 2007, 174). Garrett illustrates this approach in his novel The Driver, where entrepreneur Henry M. Galt restores the Great Midwestern Railroad with his ingenuity and business genius (213). The protagonist becomes the richest man in America, and the whole nation benefits from the success of his business.

There is also an opposite criticism of the concept of corporate social responsibility. Glasbeek argues that the company cannot a priori consider social values in the capitalist market. He states that “capitalists do not care whether a particular opportunity is disgusting or even immoral, as long as it may yield profits” (69). For example, Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath describes how banks confiscated land from landowners and referred to them as monsters (23). According to this view, the social responsibility of capitalist organizations is, in principle, impossible, and social justice requires a different economic system.

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“By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency which it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness” of a person (Bentham 2). According to Bentham, utilitarianism is an ethical theory that determines the moral value of behavior or acts by its utility. In this sense, utility means integral pleasure or happiness received by all affected parties during the action’s consequences. Thus, the utility of all goods can be measured and quantified through their intensity, duration, certainty or uncertainty, and propinquity or remoteness (Bentham 29). Bentham proclaims the principle of personal gain to a significant extent characteristic of the market, which, in his opinion, should be universally supported by the government.

There are also critics of such an approach, who claim that there should be limits to this principle. The utilitarian principle of personal gain corresponds to the market approach. Sandel, for instance, argues such social and political trend as an expansion of market principles and market-oriented thinking to other spheres of life is slightly negative (93). He argues that the omnipresence of market rules can lead to coercion when poor people are forced to make deals to support their lives, and to extensive corruption (94). Thus, Sandel demonstrates the opposite side of the principle of personal gain and the need to create moral limits of markets.


Freedom in a modern civilized society is highly connected with economic factors. It is primarily a political concept that describes civil rights and opportunities authorized by law. Friedman (2009) argues that individual political freedom and economic freedom should be distinguished (7). The author states that economic freedom is based on the possibility of bilateral free exchange between private individuals (Friedman 2009, 13). Accordingly, a planned administrative economy would preclude freedom in this sense. Economic freedom exists when there is no specific hierarchical structure regulating property relations between individuals. Money is a facilitator of exchange under such conditions and, accordingly, a means of realizing economic freedom.

Nevertheless, the free capitalist market is not always seen as an enabler of freedom. According to McNally, “by depriving people of access to the means of life except via money and the market,” the capitalist market creates a system of discipline and coercion (113). In the author’s opinion, capitalism is mostly built on unfreedom and exploitation, as members of the working class are forced to earn a living. Moreover, as a rule, a person’s future is mostly determined by his or her family’s financial situation, which already imposes certain starting restrictions (114). Thus, economic freedom in the sense of Friedman becomes a factor of exploitation and deprivation, according to McNally.

Works Cited

Bentham, Jeremy, and John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism and Other Essays. Penguin UK, 2004.

Braverman, Harry. Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. NYU Press, 1998.

Federici, Silvia. Wages against Housework. Bristol: Falling Wall Press, 1975.

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Friedman, Milton. Capitalism and Freedom. University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Friedman, Milton. “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Its Profits.” Corporate Ethics and Corporate Governance, edited by Walther C. Zimmerli, Klaus Richter, and Markus Holzinger, Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2007, pp. 173-178.

Garrett, Garet. The Driver. Laissez Faire Books, 1924.

Glasbeek, Harry. Class Privilege: How Law Shelters Shareholders and Coddles Capitalism. Between the Lines, 2018.

McNally, David. Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance. PM Press, 2011.

Rice, Elmer. The Adding Machine. Alexander Street Press, 2005.

Sandel, Michael J. What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. Macmillan, 2012.

Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. Penguin, 2006.

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Williams, Eric. Capitalism and Slavery. UNC Press Books, 2014.

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