What is the subject matter of economics? What role does the “division of labour” play in defining this subject matter?
Quoting Michael Yates, “The subject matter of economics is the production and distribution of output…” (Yates, 2003). So what does this say to me? Simplifying, this says to me that Economics is a way of explaining the world. With studies dating as far back as Aristotle’s interest in the various forms of state, how can one ever fully understand the complexities of economic thought and how could one definition ever sum up the entirety of what economists endeavour to understand? (Meikle, Scott, 1995) The study of economics attempts to understand and to explain how and why the wealth of the world is produced, distributed, and consumed. It examines everything from global and local markets, class structures and wealth distribution, the role of government and politicians, supply and demand of products and services, the division of labour, and countless other factors that affect how and why the productions systems of the world economy function the way they do. Arguably, one of the most influential factors in defining the subject matter of economics is the division of labour. By influential I am not stating that I am of the opinion that the current distribution of labour it is positive factor to our current economic climate, just that it is an influential one. Although the famous theorist Adam Smith argued that economic growth, as a result of the productivity improvements gained, was rooted in the division of labour (Smith, 1776). He, among others, also came to acknowledge the many downsides of a deepening division of labour (Walker, 1886 Smith, 1776 Marx, 1847). Labour is distributed not only between countries and companies but also within each individual company. The wage disparity between middle and lower class and the wealth distribution between labourers and capitalists (business owners) that results from a deepening division of...
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