Smith attributes a great deal of the increase in the productivity of labor to division of labor, and presents a good case for it.; at least, I’m convinced. His comments on agriculture are intriguing. P12: “The nature of agriculture, indeed, does not admit of so many subdivisions of labor, nor of so complete a separation of one business from another, as manufactures.” It makes me wonder if this might change in the future; if a more rational and planned production might reduce this gap. That speculation aside, however, the point is inarguable and significant.
I also found convincing his discussion, pp 15-16, of how much more significant training and specialization (“dexterity”) are compared to innate skill. Of course, I may only have been convinced because it agrees with my prejudices.
On the top of page 16 is introduced the implication that the measure of labor is time. I agree here, too, but wonder if he’ll go into more detail later. Further on 16: “Men are much more likely to discover easier and readier methods of attaining any object, when the whole attention of their minds is directed towards that single object, than when it is dissipated among a great variety of things.” This fits very well with the idea of capitalism ushering in the age of specialization; my own belief is that this age will end when capitalism ends, but that is just more speculation. On pages 17-18 he quite rightly observes that some inventions have been the product of those who specialize in inventions and in machines, and, later, he hints at the importance of those who “are often capable of combining together the powers of the distant and dissimilar objects.”
He loses precision and credibility on page 19, when he tries to include his ideas of division of labor into pre-capitalist, and especially primitive communist societies. I would guess this has to do with the infancy of anthropology in his time, but it seems clear that, in fact, there is very little division of labor in hunter-gatherer societies (eg, cf Turnbull, The Forrest People).
His mention at the bottom of page 19 of sailors immediately made me think of the degree of specialization in an 18th or 19th century man-of-war, compared to the very little division of labor in, for example, a trireme or a proa.