separation of tasks within a system
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Specialization is the act or process of becoming specialized. It can be to narrow in scope, or to make distinct or separate in form or function.
- Thus we are brought to the third circle of this hell, which, perhaps, will some day find its Dante. In this third social circle, a sort of Parisian belly, in which the interests of the town are digested, and where they are condensed into the form known as /business/, there moves and agitates, as by some acrid and bitter intestinal process, the crowd of lawyers, doctors, notaries, councillors, business men, bankers, big merchants, speculators, and magistrates. Here are to be found even more causes of moral and physical destruction than elsewhere... Their genuine stupidity lies hid beneath their specialism. They know their business, but are ignorant of everything which is outside it. So that to preserve their self-conceit they question everything, are crudely and crookedly critical. They appear to be sceptics and are in reality simpletons; they swamp their wits in interminable arguments...
- Everyone who achieves strives for totality, and the value of his achievement lies in that totality—that is, in the fact that the whole, undivided nature of a human being should be expressed in his achievement. But when determined by our society, as we see it today, achievement does not express a totality; it is completely fragmented and derivative. It is not uncommon for the community to be the site where a joint and covert struggle is waged against higher ambitions and more personal goals. ... The socially relevant achievement of the average person serves in the vast majority of cases to repress the original and nonderivative, inner aspirations of the human being.
- Walter Benjamin, The Life of Students (1915), as translated by R. Livingstone, in Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings – vol. 1: 1913-1926, ed. Michael William Jennings, Harvard University Press, 1996
- The disease of the modern character is specialization. Looked at from the standpoint of the social system, the aim of specialization may seem desirable enough. The aim is to see that the responsibilities of government, law, medicine, engineering, agriculture, education, etc., are given into the hands of the most skilled, best prepared people. The difficulties do not appear until we look at specialization from the opposite standpoint—that of individual persons. We then begin to see the grotesquery—indeed, the impossibility—of an idea of community wholeness that divorces itself from any idea of personal wholeness.
- Wendell Berry (1977), The Unsettling of America, p. 12
- The first, and best known, hazard of the specialist system is that it produces specialists—people who are elaborately and expensively trained to do one thing. We get into absurdity very quickly here. There are, for instance, educators who have nothing to teach, communicators who have nothing to say, medical doctors skilled at expensive cures for diseases that they have no skill, and no interest, in preventing. More common, and more damaging, are the inventors, manufacturers, and salesmen of devices who have no concern for the possible effects of those devices. Specialization is thus seen to be a way of institutionalizing, justifying, and paying highly for a calamitous disintegration and scattering-out of the various functions of character: workmanship, care, conscience, responsibility.
- Wendell Berry (1977), The Unsettling of America, p. 12
- Nowadays, the phenomenon (of division of labor) has developed so generally it is obvious to all. We need have no further illusions about the tendencies of modern industry; it advances steadily towards powerful machines, towards great concentrations of forces and capital, and consequently to the extreme division of labor. Occupations are infinitely separated and specialized, not only inside the factories, but each product is itself a specialty dependent upon others. Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill still hoped that agriculture, at least, would be an exception to the rule, and they saw it as the last resort of small-scale industry. Although one must be careful not to generalize unduly in such matters, nevertheless it is hard to deny today that the principal branches of the agricultural industry are steadily being drawn into the general movement. Finally, business itself is ingeniously following and reflecting in all its shadings the infinite diversity of industrial enterprises; and, while this evolution is realizing itself with unpremeditated spontaneity, the economists, examining its causes and appreciating its results, far from condemning or opposing it, uphold it as necessary. They see in it the supreme law of human societies and the condition of their progress.
- [O]ur failures are a consequence of many factors, but possibly one of the most important is the fact that society operates on the theory that specialization is the key to success, not realizing that specialization precludes comprehensive thinking. ...All universities have been progressively organized for ever finer specialization. ...Yet ...a little child ...is interested in everything and spontaneously apprehends, comprehends, and co-ordinates an ever-expanding inventory of experiences. ...Nothing seems to be more prominent about human life than its wanting to understand all and put everything together. One of humanity's prime drives is to understand and be understood. ...We had assumed the child to be an empty brain receptacle into which we could inject ...wisdom until ...educated ...In the light of modern behavioral science ...that was not a good working assumption. ...[W]hy is it that we have disregarded all children's significantly spontaneous and comprehensive curiosity ...We do not have to go back very far in history for the answer.
- The inevitable counterpart of specialization is organization. This is what brings the work of specialists to a coherent result. If there are many specialists, this coordination will be a major task. So complex, indeed, will be the job of organizing specialists that there will be specialists on organization and organizations of specialists on organization. More perhaps than machinery, massive and complex business organizations are the tangible manifestation of advanced technology.
- A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
- Robert A. Heinlein, in Time Enough for Love, 1973; cited in: QFinance, the ultimate resource London: Bloomsbury. 2009. p. 1760.
- The underlying principle of specialization is division of labor; but the term division of labor has become associated with the individual worker, whereas specialization is, in general, far reaching in its effects, and influences industrial enterprises of all kinds.
- Dexter S. Kimball, Principles of industrial organization. New York : McGraw-Hill, 1913; 1919, p. 37
- A second, related assumption of modern progress-philosophy is that intellectual production functions in essentially the same way as economic production: the progress of both results from “teamwork,” from the practice of the division of labor or specialization within a group. And just as the essential precondition of the economic division of labor is exchange, so the precondition of intellectual specialization is the efficient exchange of knowledge—through publication.
- Arthur Melzer (2007) “On the Pedagogical Motive for Esoteric Writing” The Journal of Politics, Volume 69, Issue 4, pp. 1015 - 1031
- ... I think the right strategy for the mass of humanity is to specialize. Nobody wants to go a doctor who is half proctologist and half dentist. ... The ordinary way to succeed is to narrowly specialize.
- Charlie Munger, (May 4, 2019)"Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger chair the 2019 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Metting (FULL)". Yahoo Finance, YouTube. (quote at 4:56:05 of 7:10:07)
- Specialization in this world is rudimentary and self-sufficiency characterizes most individual households
- Douglass C. North (1990) Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance p. 119
- International specialization and division of labor requires institutions and organizations to safeguard property rights across international boundaries so that capital markets as well as other kinds of exchange can take place with credible commitment on the part of the players.
- Douglass C. North (1990) Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance p. 121
- The idea of expertise in any one area of the humanities, with its subsequent phenomenon of faculty recruitment by time framed "slots," was always mistaken. It was inspired, in this masculine pioneer country that has never taken the arts seriously, by nervous emulation of the sciences, where one can indeed deeply and profitably specialize in moths, ferns, or igneous rocks. But there is no true expertise in the humanities without knowing all of the humanities.
- Camille Paglia, “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf,” Arion, Third Series, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Spring, 1991), p. 174
- The last of Smith’s regrettable failures is one for which he is overwhelmingly famous – the division of labor. How can it be that the famous opening chapters of his book, and the pin factory he gave immortality, can be considered a failure? Are they not cited as often as any passages in all economics? Indeed, over the generations they are. The failure is different: almost no one used or now uses theory of division of labor, for the excellent reason that there is scarcely such a theory. … there is no standard, operable theory to describe what Smith argued to be the mainspring of economic progress. Smith gave the division of labor an immensely convincing presentation – it seems to me as persuasive a case for the power of specialization today as it appeared to Smith. Yet there is no evidence, so far as I know, of any serious advance in theory of the subject since his time, and specialization is not an integral part of the modern theory of production, which may well be an explanation for the fact that the modern theory of economies of scale is little more than a set of alternative possibilities.
- George Stigler (1976). “The Successes and Failures of Professor Smith”. Journal of Political Economy, 84, 1199-1213
- It is an ancient belief, going back to classical antiquity, that specialization of any kind is illiberal in a freeman. A man willing to bury himself in the details of some small endeavor has been considered lost to these larger considerations which must occupy the mind of the ruler.
- Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences (Chicago: 1948), p. 56
- For the Confucian, the specialistic expert could not be raised to truly positive dignity, no mater what his social usefulness. The decisive factor was that the "cultured man" (gentleman) was "not a tool"; that is, in his adjustment to the world and in his self-perfection he was an end unto himself, not a means for any functional end. This core of Confucian ethics rejected professional specialization, modern expert bureaucracy, and special training; above all, it rejected training in economics for the pursuit of profit.
- Specialization develops only part of a man; a man partially developed is deformed.
- Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences (Chicago: 1948), p. 56
- The former distrust of specialization has been supplanted by its opposite, a distrust of generalization. Not only has man become a specialist in practice, he is being taught that special facts represent the highest form of knowledge.
- Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences (Chicago: 1948), p. 59
- Just as the various trades are most highly developed in large cities, in the same way food at the palace is prepared in a far superior manner. In small towns the same man makes couches, doors, plows and tables, and often he even builds houses, and still he is thankful if only he can find enough work to support himself. And it is impossible for a man of many trades to do all of them well. In large cities, however, because many make demands on each trade, one alone is enough to support a man, and often less than one: for instance one man makes shoes for men, another for women, there are places even where one man earns a living just by mending shoes, another by cutting them out, another just by sewing the uppers together, while there is another who performs none of these operations but assembles the parts, Of necessity, he who pursues a very specialised task will do it best.