The division of labor is the meaning of life

In 21st-century human society, the mode of social life is so closely identified with the particularities of the division of labor that the two are practically identical. Even many of the so-called social issues are ultimately questions of the division of labor, for instance within marriage and family life, where changing attitudes toward sex (gender is a grammatical term) in relation to marriage, child-rearing, homosexuality, and other questions challenge ancient divisions of labor between men and women.

Which is to say, changes in the division of labor are by necessity changes in the mode of social life; radical, far-reaching, and sudden changes in the division of labor are, in the favorite term of Silicon Valley, “disruptive.”

They are disruptive economically in the familiar Schumpeterian sense of “creative destruction,” but they are socially disruptive as well, eroding or upending relationships between individuals, communities, and institutions, introducing new insecurity and uncertainty into status hierarchies and social relations that had seemed to be fixed, at least from the point of view of those whose lives are defined by those disrupted status hierarchies and distressed social relations.