Front Page Titles (by Subject) 6: Changes in the Individual in Society - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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6: Changes in the Individual in Society - Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis 
Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, trans. J. Kahane, Foreword by F.A. Hayek (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981).
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Changes in the Individual in Society
The most important effect of the division of labour is that it turns the independent individual into a dependent social being. Under the division of labour social man changes, like the cell which adapts itself to be part of an organism. He adapts himself to new ways of life, permits some energies and organs to atrophy and develops others. He becomes one-sided. The whole tribe of romantics, the unbending laudatores temporis acti (praisers of time past), have deplored this fact. For them the man of the past who developed his powers “harmoniously” is the ideal: an ideal which alas no longer inspires our degenerate age. They recommend retrogression in the division of labour, hence their praise of agricultural labour, by which they always mean the almost self-sufficing peasant.31
Here, again the modern socialist outdoes the rest. Marx promises that in the higher phase of the communist society “the enslaving subjection of individuals under the division of labour, and with this also the contrast between mental and bodily labour, shall have disappeared.”32 Account will be taken of the human “need for change.” “Alternation of mental and bodily labour” will “safeguard man’s harmonious development.”33
We have already dealt with this illusion.34 Were it possible to achieve all human aims with only that amount of labour which does not itself cause any discomfort but at the same time relieves the sensation of displeasure that arises from doing nothing, then labour would not be an economic object at all. To satisfy needs would not be work but play. This, however, is not possible. Even the self-sufficient worker, for the most part, must labour far beyond the point where the effort is agreeable. One may assume that work is less unpleasant to him than to the worker who is tied to a definite task, as he finds at the beginning of each job he tackles fresh sensations of pleasure in the activity itself. If, nevertheless, man has given himself up more and more to the division of labour, it is because he has recognized that the higher productivity of labour thus specialized more than repays him for the loss of pleasure. The extent of the division of labour cannot be curtailed without reducing the productivity of labour. This is true of all kinds of labour. It is an illusion to believe that one can maintain productivity and reduce the division of labour.
Abolition of the division of labour would be no remedy for the injuries inflicted on the individual, body and soul, by specialized labour, unless we are prepared to set back social development. It is for the individual himself to set about becoming a complete human being. The remedy lies in reforming consumption, not in “reforming” labour. Play and sport, the pleasure of art, reading are the obvious way of escape.
It is futile to look for the harmoniously developed man at the outset of economic evolution. The almost self-sufficient economic subject as we know him in the solitary peasant of remote valleys shows none of that noble, harmonious development of body, mind, and feeling which the romantics ascribe to him. Civilization is a product of leisure and the peace of mind that only the division of labour can make possible. Nothing is more false than to assume that man first appeared in history with an independent individuality and that only during the evolution which led to the Great Society did he lose, together with material freedom, his spiritual independence. All history, evidence and observation of the lives of primitive peoples is directly contrary to this view. Primitive man lacks all individuality in our sense. Two South Sea Islanders resemble each other far more closely than two twentieth-century Londoners. Personality was not bestowed upon man at the outset. It has been acquired in the course of evolution of society.35
[31. ]Adam Müller says about “the vicious tendency to divide labour in all branches of private industry and in government business too,” that man needs “an all round, I might say a sphere-round field of activity.” If the “division of labour in large cities or industrial or mining provinces cuts up man, the completely free man, into wheels, rollers, spokes, shafts, etc., forces on him an utterly one-sided scope in the already one-sided field of the provisioning of one single want, how can one then demand that this fragment should accord with the whole complete life and with its law, or with legality; how should the rhombuses, triangles, and figures of all kinds accord separately with the great sphere of political life and its law?” See Adam Müller, Ausgewählte Abhandlungen, ed. Baxa (Jena, 1921), p. 46.
[32. ]Marx, Zur Kritik des sozialdemokratischen Parteiprogramms von Gotha, p. 17. Innumerable passages in his writings show how falsely Marx conceived the nature of labour in industry. Thus he thought also that “the division of labour in the mechanical factory” is characterized by “having lost every specialized character ... The automatic factory abolishes the specialist and the one-track mind.” And he blames Proudhon, “who did not understand even this one revolutionary side of the automatic factory.” Marx, Das Elend der Philosophie, p. 129. Publisher’s Note: p. 138 of the English translation.
[33. ]Bebel, Die Frau und der Sozialismus, pp. 283 ff. Publisher’s Note: In English translation pp. 392-394.
[34. ]See pp. 144 ff.
[35. ]Durkheim, De la division du travail social, pp. 452 ff.