If one of the objectives of socialism is to organize human labor as in a "single factory" and to "suppress all national and international competition,"1 then the regime of the Incas was, in this respect at least, socialist indeed. Everything was regulated by authority, whether the introduction of an innovation or the sanction accorded to some custom already well established.
Labor was obligatory, but the term "labor" was understood in its broadest sense, and it differed according to one's social rank. Each class had its several role to play in the empire.
The upper classes were obliged to perform intellectual labor, in management, organization, or supervision. All the Incas worked, for they all held posts in the government service, the priesthood, or the army. No one could live in idleness. The only persons exempt from labor were those who were aged, disabled, ill, or for some other reason incapacitated.
This principle was so extensive in its application that children from the age of five were required to perform some task in keeping with their strength, and women on their visits to one another would take their distaffs along with them and go on with their spinning as they walked and chatted. The princesses too would have their distaffs with them when they went to see one another.2