Ludwig von Mises argues that the division of labor and human cooperation are the two sides of the same coin and are not antagonistic to each other (1949)

Ludwig von Mises

In vol. 1, part 2, chapter 8, section 2 of Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, Ludwig von Mises shows the necessary and essential connection between free economic activity and social cooperation:

The fundamental social phenomenon is the division of labor and its counterpart human cooperation. Experience teaches man that cooperative action is more efficient and productive than isolated action of self-sufficient individuals. The natural conditions determining man’s life and effort are such that the division of labor increases output per unit of labor expended.

Liberty Fund is republishing a large number of the works of Ludwig von Mises as part of a new Liberty Fund “Library of the Works of Ludwig von Mises”. Over the next few months we will be sampling several of these works for interesting insights. In this passage Mises lays to rest an old argument that the capitalist system based upon the division of labor is somehow inimical to human cooperation. In fact the reverse is true, according to Mises, as each depends upon the existence of the other: social cooperation makes the division of labor possible, and the division of labor encourages and rewards social cooperation.