Dear readers, if you have ever felt that some of the content of my columns is too ‘ivory tower’ (read: bookish) and aristocratic, this one is for you.

Probably the single most significant moment in my life thus far, came on a summer morning eight years ago. I was reading on the sociological differences of white-collar and blue-collar workers (more in an earlier column: The 72-Hour Solution to Poverty in Pakistan.) Before I knew it, I was re-enacting the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes’ famous ‘Eureka’ (I found it!) episode to a degree of similarity that no respectable newspaper’s editorial policy would deem mentionable.

The aforementioned discovery was an earlier incarnation of my life’s great love these days: the division of labour.

In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith famously argued that the enormous differences in the skills of ordinary folks and geniuses, respectively, is much less than we suppose due to differences in ‘natural talents,’ and more as a consequence of the division of labour. (Smith, 1776)

Now, I certainly do not subscribe to this view wholeheartedly. But Smith certainly has a point: what the division of labour allows, is the amplification of human potential to a degree that the self-sufficient genius can be left scratching his head looking at, for example, a handmade Nike shoe. Add in the use of machinery, and the most gifted genius living by himself in the Amazon rainforest may, upon being introduced to a Rolls-Royce, initially refuse to believe altogether that it could ever have been manufactured by man.

Back to earth. You see, my car, a respectable Toyota Vitz in good shape, has been giving me trouble recently. Only, at every opportunity to finally proceed with mastering its (not-so) intricate details, I invariably rationalize spending the time immersed in the written word instead. The car, as a result, has started to fall apart and my antics with it are becoming sitcom-worthy.

Enter to my rescue, ironically enough, the French sociologist Emile Durkheim’s 1893 work The Division of Labor in Society, and I realise that my gravitating towards what is complimentary to my vocation (as a writer) is actually a natural, ‘functional’ law. By dedicating myself away from mechanical pursuits (or non-scholarly ones in general), I’m making myself dependent on others, with whom I am then left helpless but to cater one half of a mutually beneficial relationship with. Durkheim’s contention was that the division of labour fosters ‘social solidarity’ amongst individuals in this way – something which eventually culminates in the development of a more advanced type of society (think: urban Pakistan versus rural Pakistan) characterized by a thriving social life.

Now, like most of you, I couldn’t afford a personal driver. Or maybe I could, but only after I ‘develop into’ a scholarly genius as Smith would put it, and start entertaining some hefty exchanges between myself and my clients (editors in chief hopefully getting the hint here.)

Let me phrase that another way: I can’t expect to (be productive enough to) afford a full-time driver, till I actually have a driving genius doing me the favour in the interim. This limbo is what’s keeping me from blossoming into the Rolls Royce’s equivalent of a writer. I need to get out of this downward spiral. After all, I’m a columnist for one of the country’s major newspapers!

“A prince must have no other objective, no other thought, nor take up any profession but that of war, its methods and its discipline, for that is the only art expected of a ruler.” (Machiavelli, The Prince)

Just where, in the name of God, am I going to find this fantasy application of the division of labour that extends to having ‘driving geniuses’ at my constant service?

“As it is the power of exchanging that gives occasion to the division of labour, so the extent of this division must always be limited by the extent of that power, or, in other words, by the extent of the market. When the market is very small, no person can have any encouragement to dedicate himself entirely to one employment..” (Smith, 1776)

You guessed it. Find the city’s best marketplace, and you’ll find in plentiful supply the service of the Taxicab.

You may recall what I wrote recently about Gulberg: it functions in its entirety as a marketplace and so allows gifted people to come into their own.

“..(It is an expression) of the human beings who have been made beautiful by it.” (as quoted in Why We All Love Gulberg)

Let me draft a sketch of the anatomy of what I’m calling ‘Operation I’m Bringing Taxi Back’ then: no careless run-ins; no waiting in CNG-queues; no playing mechanic; no challan episodes; no road rage; no car servicing chores; no multi-tasking behind the wheel. No more being the real-life equivalent of Mr. Bean. Just some extra bills and a resolute goodbye to ‘lifestyle, parsimony.’

“In supplying all his different necessities, he never attains a perfection in any particular art.. By the partition of employments, our ability en creases: And by mutual succor we are less expos’d to fortune and accidents.” (David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature)

I’ll take it.

Goodbye car. I’m doing it. I’m bringing taxi back.

So take note, rival columnists! You may have greater ‘inner talents’ than Munna Bakistan, but with the division of labor in my arsenal, I shall insha’Allah leap ahead.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some serious homework to do.

“Daein is right.. baein is left..”

Just, God help me if I encounter the deadly ‘sajje haath, khabbe haath’ combination..

Or maybe I’ll just have to put-off ‘no more being the real-life equivalent of Mr. Bean’ for a later time.

n    The author runs Scholars by Profession, a local research-initiative.


    Twitter: @HarisSeyal