Let $R$ be a ring. A cute theorem by **N. Jacobson** states that if the identity $x^{n}=x$ holds for every $x \in R$ and a fixed $n \geq 2$ then $R$ is a commutative ring.

The proof of the result for the cases $n=2, 3,4$ is the subject matter of several well-known exercises in **Herstein**'s *Topics in Algebra*. The corresponding proofs rely heavily on "elementary" manipulations. For instance, the proof of the case $n=3$ can be done as follows:

1) If $a, b \in R$ are such that $ab= 0$ then $ba=0$.

2) $a^{2}$ and $-a^{2}$ belong to $\mathbf{Z}(R)$ for every $a \in R$.

3) Since $(a^{2}+a)^{3} = (a^{2}+a)^{2}+(a^{2}+a)^{2}$ it follows that

$a=a+a^{2}-a^{2} = (a+a^{2})^{3}-a^{2} = (a^{2}+a)^{2}+(a^{2}+a)^{2}-a^{2}$

and whence the result. ▮

Certainly, the mind can't but boggle at the succinctness of the above solution. Actually, it is the conciseness of this argument that has prompted me to pose the present question: **is an analogous demonstration of the general theorem possible?** The one that appears in [**1**] depends on some non-trivial structure theorems for division rings.

As usual, I thank you in advance for your insightful replies, reading suggestions, web links, etc...

**References**

[**1**] I. N. Herstein, *Noncommutative rings*, The Carus Mathematical Monographs, no. 15, Mathematical Association of America, 1968.

[**2**] I. N. Herstein, Álgebra Moderna, Ed. Trillas, págs. 112, 119, and 153.