Division of labor in complex societies: a new age of conceptual expansion and integrative analysis

Robson, Simon K.A., and Traniello, James F.A. (2016) Division of labor in complex societies: a new age of conceptual expansion and integrative analysis. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 70 (7). pp. 995-998.

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[Extract] In large cities… 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. Xenophon, Cyropaedia (2365 ybp)

Ultrasociality refers to the most social of animal organizations, with full time division of labor, specialists who gather no food but are fed by others, sharing of information about sources of food and danger, and self-sacrificial effort in collective defense. This level has been achieved by ants, termites and humans in several scattered archaic city-states. Campbell (1982)

Many writers have for a long time maintained that there is a division of labor among ants correlated with differences in size and structure. There are some differences of opinion as to the functions of different classes. Probably this is largely due to the fact that the observations were in many cases made upon different species. Buckingham (1911)

The ancient reference by Xenophon and the neologism “ultrasociality” (Campbell 1982; Gowdy and Krall 2015) define division of labor as a significant commonality in the organization of insect and human societies, bridging disciplines across millennia and revealing overlap in historical and modern interests in the role of specialization in social structure. Within the time period encompassed by the Athenian record and modern bioeconomics lies the work of Adam Smith, Emile Durkheim, Henry Ford, Charles Darwin, William Morton Wheeler, Julian Huxley, and Edward O. Wilson, and an interdisciplinary interplay in conceptual development and application in social insect biology and beyond. This entomological and sociological dialogue and reciprocal exchange in modeling the organization of work (Rodgers 2008) has been significant to the study of social insect labor.

Item ID: 47679
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0762
Keywords: social insect; eusociality, caste
Funders: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Projects and Grants: NSF IOS ‐ 1354291
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2017 22:59
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310301 Behavioural ecology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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