v· slogan popularised by Karl Marx in his 1875Critique of the Gotha Program. The phrase summarizes the principles that, in a communist society, every person should contribute to society to the best of his or her ability and consume from society in proportion to his or her needs. In the Marxist view, such an arrangement will be made possible by the abundance of goods and services that a developed communist society will produce; the idea is that there will be enough to satisfy everyone's needs.
The complete paragraph containing Marx's statement of the creed in the 'Critique of the Gotha Program' is as follows:
In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!
Although Marx is popularly thought of as the originator of the phrase, the slogan was common to the socialist movement and was first used by Louis Blanc in 1840, in "The organization of work", as a revision of a quote by the utopian socialist Henri de Saint Simon, who claimed that each should be rewarded according to how much he works. The origin of this phrasing has also been attributed to the French communist Morelly, who proposed in his 1755 Code of Nature "Sacred and Fundamental Laws that would tear out the roots of vice and of all the evils of a society" including
I. Nothing in society will belong to anyone, either as a personal possession or as capital goods, except the things for which the person has immediate use, for either his needs, his pleasures, or his daily work.
II. Every citizen will be a public man, sustained by, supported by, and occupied at the public expense.
III. Every citizen will make his particular contribution to the activities of the community according to his capacity, his talent and his age; it is on this basis that his duties will be determined, in conformity with the distributive laws.
Some scholars trace the origin of the phrase to the New Testament. In the parable of the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus spoke of what we are given, according to our abilities; to test the commitment of the steward to his master. In Acts the Apostles' lifestyle is described as communal (without individual possession), and uses the phrase "distribution was made unto every man according as he had need":
Matthew 25:14-30 (read the entire parable) And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to each according to his ability. And he went abroad at once.
Acts 4:32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.
Debates on the idea
Marx delineated the specific conditions under which such a creed would be applicable—a society where technology and social organization had substantially eliminated the need for physical labor in the production of things, where "labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want". Marx explained his belief that, in such a society, each person would be motivated to work for the good of society despite the absence of a social mechanism compelling them to work, because work would have become a pleasurable and creative activity. Marx intended the initial part of his slogan, "from each according to his ability" to suggest not merely that each person should work as hard as they can, but that each person should best develop their particular talents.
^Bell, Steve (21 January 2011). "Comment & Debate" (in English). Guardian Weekly (Guardian News and Media Ltd.): pp. 21.
Cohen, G. A. (1995). "Self-ownership, communism, and equality: against the Marxist technological fix". Self-ownership, freedom, and equality. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-47751-4.
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