Division of Labor Division of labor, the parceling out of work based on various categories of identity, is understood commonly as a division made on the basis of gender. Indeed, food production, preparation, and even consumption are often differentiated on the basis of gender: men do some tasks and women do others. For example, cooking is widely recognized as an essentially female task (Murdock and Provost, p. 208). However, division of labor can apply to class, ethnicity, and age as well, and these categories also intersect with how people produce, prepare, and consume food. Food Production The division of labor begins when food production begins, which is a pattern rooted in the history of humanity. The earliest humans tended to divide their work by category, where men hunted and fished and women gathered vegetable foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts). Among foraging societies, women still take on the greater portion of food-preparation tasks, such as http://www.answers.com/topic/grind, pounding, boiling, and otherwise processing gathered and hunted foods into edible meals. For the few societies that still http://www.answers.com/topic/procuring their food in the hunting-and-gathering strategy, a large percentage of the diet is made up of non-meat foods, with meat functioning as a much-desired and prized treat (Lee, pp. 256-258). As societies adopted farming as a means of food production, dividing food production by gender persisted, yet much of this division was based on cultural understandings of gender rather than a physical advantage on the part of men or women. For example, among the Maring of New Guinea, numerous agricultural tasks are divided on the basis of gender: men and women together clear gardens, but only men fell trees. Both men and women plant crops, but weeding is a primary female occupation. At harvest time, men harvest above-ground crops and women harvest below-ground crops (Rappaport, pp. 38-40, 43). These are categories based on cultural understandings, similar to how grilling and barbecuing are identified as male tasks in many Western societies. An extreme case of agricultural specialization is found in much of sub-Saharan Africa, where http://www.answers.com/topic/subsistence agriculture is a predominantly, sometimes exclusively, female task. Agricultural economist Ester Boserup notes that in sub-Saharan cultures, the shift to a more urbanized society often reduces women's status, for although rural farm women may not be socially equal to their husbands, their work on farms is recognized and valued. A shift into a more "Westernized" work pattern can eliminate what power such women do have (pp. 53-63). However, agricultural work patterns vary widely. In societies where http://www.answers.com/topic/plough agriculture is common, women are often likely to process food in the home, while the actual farm labor falls to men; yet even in those societies, women may http://www.answers.com/topic/weed and harvest or keep kitchen gardens. In the United States, women's farm participation varies from http://www.answers.com/topic/negligible to great. The publication Marketing to Women notes that although the number of women farmers in the United States is on the rise, women tend to own the smallest farms. At the same time, women are far more likely to own their farms: fully 80 percent of women farmers are farm owners, in contrast to the 58 percent of male farmers who own their farms. Preparing Foods Food preparation, particularly that which occurs in the home and family, is most strongly associated with women and women's work. This is a pattern that has been documented widely. Journalist Laura Shapiro and food writer Ruth Reichl outline the history of this development in the United States in Perfection Salad, their account of the "domestic science" movement. As a result of this movement, women's work came to be viewed as professional, and cooking and other domestic activities were elevated to a woman's highest calling. (See also http://www.answers.com/topic/comgan-1. Numerous works from a range of disciplines document this pattern. Among them are works by Sherrie A. Inness and the U.S. sociologist Arlie Hochschild.) Similar patterns have emerged in other societies, although the underlying cultural ideals may differ. Anne Allison describes the great attention that Japanese mothers give to the preparation of their http://www.answers.com/topic/preschool children's boxed lunches. Young children attend preschool from three to six years of age, where they bring elaborately prepared lunches with them. Mothers organize other family meals around lunch preparation and spend as much as forty-five minutes each morning preparing lunch for their preschoolers. Men never prepare such lunches, and no adult that Allison interviewed could ever recall their father preparing a lunch. Indeed, the elaborate and beautifully presented lunch reflects well on the mother and signals her devotion to her children in the eyes of other mothers and of the preschool staff. The association of women and domestic food preparation is sufficiently strong that men's cooking requires explanation. In some societies, men prepare special or ritual meals. The ethnographic film The Feast, by Timothy Asch, shows Yanomamo men preparing and eating a ritual meal, which is unusual in this strongly patriarchal Amazonian society. Other Types of Divisions However, gender is not the only way that labor is divided. This is true for food preparation, as it is for many other types of labor. Class or rank is a major category of division. For example, among the affluent in society, in modern times as well as in the past, servants often prepare food for the household. Also, certain kinds of foods might only be prepared or consumed by people of specific social classes. Archaeologist Christine Hastorf's work in Peru traced the preparation and consumption of corn, in the form of corn beer, through the pre-Incan and Incan periods. Using a sophisticated array of techniques, Hastorf compared the presence of corn pollens among different house sites and throughout neighborhoods. Over time, the presence of http://www.answers.com/topic/pollen, generally found in the patios and yards where women prepared food, was concentrated in the house sites of elite classes. The preparation of corn slowly shifted from most women to elite women. Further comparisons of this type showed that over the same period of time, women's consumption of corn decreased overall, while men's consumption increased in elite neighborhoods. Hastorf hypothesized that with the rise of the Incan Empire, elite women became increasingly specialized corn-beer producers and elite men became the beer's main consumers. Perhaps the most striking change in U.S. food preparation is that most people do not prepare their own food. An increasing number of people pay to eat food that is prepared elsewhere, whether they pick up burgers at a drive-through restaurant, order pizza, or buy prepared meals in markets. This pattern has been noted for much of the past twenty years (see http://www.answers.com/topic/gonzales%29 and continues to http://www.answers.com/topic/intensify.
Social division of labor is an aspect of division of labor. It shows the social structure of the technical division of tasks, between firms and workers, or between countries or towns, and focuses on exchange markets. A prime example is one where one town is better equipped for creating food, but another is better suited for creating clothes. As these two towns specialize through social division of labor, they find it beneficial to exchange.
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