Principle of Specialization:
A Positive Review of a Repulsive Feature
While is it the belief of many that the Principle of Specialization is the most repulsive feature introduced to us by Plato in the Republic, the opposing argument is that the use of specialization is a great idea. Businesses aim to operate with as much productivity as possible while having very little waste, so why not our communities? The Principle of Specialization is present in all aspects of the community, from its humble beginnings of only a handful of men1 and even more so in the state that grows into one that needs an army for protection 2. By examining each new layer that is added, we can study each new aspect of specialization that is added to the society. In the most basic form of a society, only a handful of men are present. These men come together to fulfill their needs by relying on the skills of others in different areas. All men have the basic needs which are food, shelter and clothing. 3 By using their unique skills and sharing the fruits of their labor, no man will have to go without. No one was made equal, and clearly some may excel at one task while not being proficient in another. To maximize the productivity of the community each person should strictly work in the area that they are most practiced.4 Having
Plato, Desmond Lee, and Melissa Lane, The Republic, (London: Penguin, 2007), 369d. Plato, The Republic, 374a. Plato, The Republic, 369d. Plato, The Republic, 369e.
2 each member of the community restricted to work solely in the field that they are the most skilled may not seem optimal from the perspective of the worker due to interests in other fields, but it ensures that all work being done is of the highest quality. The mutual need of man and the ability to come together and use their individual talents to fulfill this need are the two key principles used in the formation of a society.5 By having each man focus on the area of work in which he are most qualified, we see the beginning of specialization in the smallest of societies. The ability to organize a state using specialization is one of its greatest attributes. Having men work in the area that suits them best based on their natural aptitudes ensures the highest amount of productivity in the state.6 By organizing the working men into classes, this gives them each a defined role in the state. In the simplest form of a society there are five general classes of men. The first class would belong to the producers in the community, e.g., farmers and craftsmen.7 The second class is anyone who would travel abroad exporting the goods of the community and importing goods from another, e.g., merchants.8 The third class pertains to experts that would be used in transporting goods overseas if necessary, e.g., sailors and shipowners.9 The fourth class of people are the ones who work in the market place buying and selling all goods, e.g., retail traders.10 With all the skilled members of the community in a class representative of their skills, the fifth and final class is for those who are not able to contribute
Plato, The Republic, pg 54. Plato, The Republic, 370b. Plato, The Republic, 369d and 370d. Plato, The Republic, 371a. Plato, The Republic, 371b. Plato, The Republic, 371d.
3 anything but their strength for manual labour, e.g., wage earners.11 Each class is dependent on another in some way to be a productive part of society. A simple example of this is that without any of the farmers growing crops, the merchants may have nothing to export, and without the merchant importing goods, the craftsmen may not have the material required to work effectively. Having classes within a society gives it structure. The defined role in society is the next example of specialization that we discover. To this point, specialization has done great things for the community by allowing it to be productive and organized. Life within the...