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Plato's Supposed Defense of the Division of Labor: A Reexamination of the Role of Job Specialization in the Republic


  • Daniel Silvermintz


This article challenges the long-standing belief that Plato is an early proponent of the division of labor on account of the political proposals advanced in the Republic. In contrast, I contend that the Republic offers a radical critique—rather than any endorsement—of job specialization and its accompanying psychological orientation toward acquisitiveness. The article begins with a methodological section that attempts to explain the origin of the common misreading of Plato's works and forwards an interpretive framework for situating arguments raised in the Platonic dialogues in their dramatic and dialogic contexts. Having established these hermeneutic principles, the article proceeds to analyze the shifting significance of job specialization within the imaginary cities that are considered in the Republic and concludes that the dialogue ultimately critiques job specialization insofar as it prevents the individual from harmonizing his own soul and hinders his actualization of his natural job to philosophize.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Silvermintz, 2010. "Plato's Supposed Defense of the Division of Labor: A Reexamination of the Role of Job Specialization in the Republic," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 42(4), pages 747-772, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:hop:hopeec:v:42:y:2010:i:4:p:747-772

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    Cited by:

    1. James E. Alvey, 2011. "The foundations of the ethical tradition of economics: Plato'sRepublic," International Journal of Social Economics, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 38(10), pages 824-846, August.

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    Plato; Republic; job specialization;


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