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Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

Book I

Chapter I. Of the Division of Labour

The greatest improvements in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment, with which it is anywhere directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour. The effects of the division of labour, in the general business of society, will be more easily understood, by considering in what manner it operates in some particular manufactures.

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What the "which" and "it" refers to seems not to be clear...

"which" refers to "judgment" or "the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment"?

"it" refers to "the greater part of the skill, dexterity" or "labour"?

"which", and "it", is confusing here, at least, for me....
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pructusThe greatest improvements in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment, with which it is anywhere directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour. The effects of the division of labour, in the general business of society, will be more easily understood, by considering in what manner it operates in some particular manufactures.
I'd call it a mistake. I think he means the antecedent of "it" to be "labour," but I think it's really "improvements"; which means we need to say "with which they are anywhere directed . . . "
Of course the meaning is the same either way. Maybe it's okay with "labour" as the antecedent, even though it modifies "powers." Emotion: thinking

"With which" refers to "skill, dexterity, and judgement," not to "the greater part" thereof.

Edit. I guess on reflection that he means for the antecedent of "it" to be "improvements," and he simply screwed up on his number agreement. It should be "with which they are anywhere directed . . . "

It does seem strange that such a famous work would not have been edited. Could I possibly be wrong??[:^)]
Sorry, pructus. I just can't make this work the way it's written. I thought I had it scoped, but there are just too many things which don't compute. Emotion: embarrassed
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Okay, I believe I had it backward. He's saying that all the good things which happened are the result of the division of labor, not the cause of it.

The greatest improvements [in the productive power of labour]

and the greatest part of the skill, dexterity, and judgement [with which labour is used]

are the result of the division of labor.

The antecedent of "it" is "labour."

"With which" refers to "skill, dexterity, and judgement,"
Thanks a lot, I will have to give this some time....

For your reference, the commentary of the book says, "improvement" reads "improvements" in the first edition of this book.
pructus The greatest improvements in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment, with which it is anywhere directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour. The effects of the division of labour, in the general business of society, will be more easily understood, by considering in what manner it operates in some particular manufactures.
Thanks for the heads up.
I'm really embarrassed. It seems I don't know the difference between cause and effect.

He uses the same rather awkward construction again in the second half of your excerpt. The subject of the sentence is "effects," and my brain (at least) expects that subject to also be the antecedent of "it." Unfortunately, "effects" is plural and "it" is singular.

[The effects will be understood by considering how they operate.]

But what he really says is, [The effects of X will be understood by considering how it (X) operates.]

Similarly, in the first sentence, the subject is "improvements." My instinct expects that to also be the antecedent of "it."
[The improvements (and the skill with which they are applied) are the (results) of the div. of labour.]

But what he really says is, [The improvements in X (and the skill with which it (X) is applied) both are the (results) of the div. of labour.]
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pructusThe greatest improvements in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment, with which it is anywhere directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour.
I'd say:

which = skill, dexterity, and judgment
it = labour

Labour is directed with skill, dexterity, and judgment.

After the antecedent of which is located, there are only two singular nouns left that could be the antecedent of it, and part belongs to the same constituent as skill, dexterity, and judgment, so that is not very likely. It seems to me that the antecedent has to be labour.

Note the old-style punctuation -- a restrictive clause set off by a comma.

CJ
CalifJim Note the old-style punctuation -- a restrictive clause set off by a comma.
I meant to complain about that too, but I figured I was in enough trouble already.Emotion: smile

Ha! I knew there was another member who joined on my birthday in '04. Pructus!