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In the division of labor, different people do different kinds of work for each other, with each specialized task contributing to the common good. The division of labor, with the means of exchange between each division, is a basic concept of economics. For Plato, the division of labor is fundamental to society itself (The Republic, Book II). Theologically, the concept calls to mind vocation, the way God ordained human life so that we must all serve each other.
Kevin D. Williamson points out that the division of labor is necessary for life itself–on the cellular level–and goes on to apply the concept to our current cultural struggles. From “The Division of Labor Is the Meaning of Life,” in National Review:
Moment - Idea - Plain - Thing
I would like you to entertain, for a moment, an idea that might sound a little eccentric, or maybe as plain and obvious as a thing can be. It is this:
The division of labor is the meaning of life.
I do not mean this metaphorically or analogically, but literally.
Life begins with the cell, and the cell is defined by a minimum of specialization: membrane, cytoplasm, and (usually) nucleus.
Cell - Living - Cell - Matter - Imprecision
What makes a cell a living cell is a matter of some slight imprecision: Most living cells reproduce, but some (such as neurons) do not; most cells have nuclei and DNA, but mature red blood cells do not; etc. But the generally shared characteristics of living cells all depend upon the division of labor within the cell: order, sensitivity to stimuli, growth and reproduction, maintenance of homeostasis, and metabolism.
The cell is defined by the division of labor among the organelles and other cellular constituents. That gets us to the single-celled organism. Next comes division of labor among cells rather than within them. When cells begin to divide labor among themselves, they form tissues and organs, which...
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