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Encyclopedia > From each according to his ability, to each according to his need

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need (or needs) is a slogan popularized by Karl Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program. The phrase incorporates the ideal that, under a communist system of government, every person shall produce to the best of their ability in accordance with their talent, and each person shall receive the fruits of this production in accordance with their need, irrespective of what they have produced. Look up Slogan in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Karl Heinrich Marx (May 5, 1818 – March 14, 1883) was an immensely influential German philosopher, political economist, and socialist revolutionary. ... 1875 (MDCCCLXXV) was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... The Critique of the Gotha Program is a document based on a letter by Karl Marx written in early May 1875 to the Eisenach faction of the German social democratic movement, with whom Marx and Fredrick Engels were in close association. ... Communism - Wikipedia /**/ @import /w/skins-1. ...


Origin of the phrase

The complete paragraph containing Marx's original statement of the creed 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 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 author of the phrase, it has been widely speculated that he merely co-opted a term earlier used by other leaders of the socialist movement. It has further been suggested that, despite the atheistic nature of the movement, inspiration for this creed was drawn directly from two lines in the Book of Acts in the Christian Bible: For information about the band, see Atheist (band). ... The Acts of the Apostles (Greek Praxeis Apostolon) is a book of the Bible, which now stands fifth in the New Testament. ... The Gutenberg Bible owned by the United States Library of Congress The Bible (Hebrew: תנ״ך tanakh, Greek: η Βίβλος hē biblos) (sometimes The Holy Bible, The Book, Work of God, The Word, The Good Book or Scripture), from Greek (τα) βίβλια, (ta) biblia, (the) books, is the name used by Jews and Christians for their...

All that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. (Acts 2:44-45)
There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:34-35)

Attacks on the phrase

Opponents of Marxism commonly mischaracterize this statement as saying that the less productive are always going to have the greater need, and the system is intended to reward them for lack of productivity. In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand described a car company that adopted this creed as its governing philosophy, and then fell into bankruptcy as the least productive workers used up the funds tending to their menial needs while the most productive workers were denied simple "luxuries" such as a phonograph player or a college education for their children. Another author has interpreted the creed to mean that "the more incompetent and less productive you are (i.e., the more needy), the more you receive."[1] Atlas Shrugged is a novel by Russian-born writer and philosopher Ayn Rand, first published in 1957 in the USA. It was Rands last work of fiction before concentrating her writings exclusively on philosophy. ... Ayn Rand (IPA: , Ayn rhyming with fine; February 2 [O.S. January 20] 1905 – March 6, 1982), born Alisa Zinovevna Rosenbaum (Russian: ), was a Russian-American author and philosopher best known for developing the philosophy of Objectivism and for writing the novels We the Living, Anthem, The Fountainhead, and... The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view. ...

However, the phrase identifies no direct correlation between the two characteristics. Marx intended the initial part, "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; the second part "to each according to his need" is not intended to suggest need in a monetary sense (indeed Marx's conception of communism included the abolition of money), but in the sense of receiving food and shelter, and services such as education and medical care. A healthy but unproductive person would not receive more medical care simply because he was unproductive.

Marx specifically delineated the conditions under which such a creed would be applicable - a society where technology had substantially eliminated the need for physical labor in the production of things. 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 work, and each person would be equally motivated to moderate his consumption to what was necessary for the good of society despite the absence of a social mechanism compelling moderation.

However, criticism of the type leveled by Ayn Rand is valid to the extent that communist states attempted to actually follow such a creed without first achieving the technological advances proscribed by Marx. Where such a creed was actually followed, these states tended to focus on the production of goods deemed necessities before allowing resources to be put towards the production of goods deemed luxuries. Actual attempts to operate under such a philosophy raised an inherent tension, as some individuals might have abilities geared towards the production of luxury items (such as paintings, musical instruments, or games) at a time when the production of those items was entirely subsumed to the production of food, clothing, and medicine.

Use and disuse

The phrase was used as a central tenet of communism under the communist regimes of the Soviet Union and China, among others. However, the fall of the Soviet Union and the resurgance of capitalism in both regions has seen the phrase quietly fade into disuse.[citation needed]

See also

The political slogan Workers of the world, unite!, one of the most famous rallying cries of socialism, comes from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engelss Communist Manifesto. ...




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