A Shirt : An Illustration of the Invisible Human Bonds

Professor Adam Smith is considered as the father of modern Classical Economics. His monumental Wealth of Nations was published in  1776 and he was a rock star hero in the 18th century Britain.

Wealth of Nations reveals the mechanisms of Capitalistic Mode of Production in 5 books

    • Book I: Of the Causes of Improvement…
    • Book II: Of the Nature, Accumulation, and Employment of Stock
    • Book III: Of the different Progress of Opulence in different Nations
    • Book IV: Of Systems of political Œconomy
    • Book V: Of the Revenue of the Sovereign or Commonwealth

The book deals with division of labour in a modern workshop, money, the nature of value, international trade, role of state, rent of land and is the first major step in unravelling the workings of capital.

90 years after Wealth of Nations, the first volume of Capital was published in 1867 by Karl Marx. Capital builds upon Adam Smith and David Ricardo’s work on scientific economics and presents a consistent scientific theory of origin, development and demise of capitalism.

Here, we provide an excerpt from Wealth of Nations dealing with the nature of relations among humans in modern world dominated by capitalistic mode of production. We are more connected to millions of human beings all over the world than ever in human  history. But the capitalistic world view obfuscates this and tries to put us in individual silos. Building an international working class solidarity is the way to break these silos and take humanity to a social organization of higher level.

Observe the accommodation of the most common artificer or day labourer in a civilized and thriving country, and you will perceive that the number of people, of whose industry a part, though but a small part, has been employed in procuring him this accommodation, exceeds all computation.

the accommodation of the most common artificer or day labourer – the number of people, of whose industry a part, though but a small part, has been employed in procuring him this accommodation, exceeds all computation.

  1. The woollen coat, for example, which covers the day-labourer, as coarse and rough as it may appear, is the produce of the joint labour of a great multitude of workmen.
    • The shepherd,
    • the sorter of the wool,
    • the wool-comber or carder,
    • the dyer,
    • the scribbler,
    • the spinner,
    • the weaver,
    • the fuller,
    • the dresser,
    • with many others,
      must all join their different arts in order to complete even this homely production.
  2. How many merchants and carriers, besides, must have been employed in transporting the materials from some of those workmen to others who often live in a very distant part of the country?
  3. How much commerce and navigation in particular, how many ship-builders, sailors, sail-makers, rope-makers, must have been employed in order to bring together the different drugs made use of by the dyer, which often come from the remotest corners of the world?
  4. What a variety of labour, too, is necessary in order to produce the tools of the meanest of those workmen!
  5. To say nothing of such complicated machines as the ship of the sailor, the mill of the fuller, or even the loom of the weaver, let us consider only what a variety of labour is requisite in order to form that very simple machine, the shears with which the shepherd clips the wool.

The miner, the builder of the furnace for smelting the ore, the feller of the timber, the burner of the charcoal to be made use of in the smelting-house, the brickmaker, the bricklayer, the workmen who attend the furnace, the millwright, the forger, the smith, must all of them join their different arts in order to produce them.

Were we to examine, in the same manner, all the different parts of his dress and household furniture,

  • the coarse linen shirt which he wears next his skin,
  • the shoes which cover his feet,
  • the bed which he lies on, and all the different parts which compose it,
  • the kitchen-grate at which he prepares his victuals,
  • the coals which he makes use of for that purpose, dug from the bowels of the earth, and brought to him, perhaps, by a long sea and a long land-carriage,
    all the other utensils of his kitchen,
  • all the furniture of his table,
  • the knives and forks,
  • the earthen or pewter plates upon which he serves up and divides his victuals,
  • the different hands employed in preparing his bread and his beer,
  • the glass window which lets in the heat and the light, and keeps out the wind and the rain, with all the knowledge and art requisite for preparing that beautiful and happy invention, without which these northern parts of the world could scarce have afforded a very comfortable habitation, together with the tools of all the different workmen employed in producing those different conveniences;

if we examine, I say, all these things, and consider what a variety of labour is employed about each of them, we shall be sensible that, without the assistance and co-operation of many thousands, the very meanest person in a civilized country could not be provided, even according to, what we very falsely imagine, the easy and simple manner in which he is commonly accommodated.

Compared, indeed, with the more extravagant luxury of the great, his accommodation must no doubt appear extremely simple and easy; and yet it may be true, perhaps, that the accommodation of an European prince does not always so much exceed that of an industrious and frugal peasant, as the accommodation of the latter exceeds that of many an African king, the absolute masters of the lives and liberties of ten thousand naked savages.

From Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith (1776)
Chapter 1 A. Social nature of production

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