From Each According to His Ability, to Each According to His Needs
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From Each According to His Ability, to Each According to His Needs

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" is a slogan popularised by Karl Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program.[1] The principle refers to free access and distribution of goods, capital and services.[2] In the Marxist view, such an arrangement will be made possible by the abundance of goods and services that a developed communist system will produce; the idea is that, with the full development of socialism and unfettered productive forces, there will be enough to satisfy everyone's needs.[3][4]

Origin of the phrase

The complete paragraph containing Marx's statement of the creed in the Critique of the Gotha Program is as follows:

Although Marx is popularly thought of as the originator of the phrase, the slogan was common within the socialist movement. For example, it was used by August Becker in 1844[5] and Louis Blanc in 1851.[6] The origin of this phrasing has also been attributed to the French utopian Étienne-Gabriel Morelly,[7][8] 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:[9]

A similar phrase can be found in the Guilford Covenant in 1639:

Some scholars trace the origin of the phrase to the New Testament.[11][12] In Acts of the Apostles the lifestyle of the community of believers in Jerusalem is described as communal (without individual possession), and uses the phrase "distribution was made unto every man according as he had need" ( ):

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".[13] 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.[14][15]

Claiming themselves to be at a "lower stage of communism" (i.e. "socialism", in line with Marx's terminology),[16] the Soviet Union adapted the formula as: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his work (labour investment)".[17]

While liberation theology has sought to interpret the Christian call for justice in a way that is in harmony with this Marxist dictum, many have noted that Jesus' teaching in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) affirms only "TO each according to his ability" (Matt. 25:15), and not "FROM each according to his ability".[18][unreliable source?]

See also


  1. ^ a b Marx, Karl (1875). "Part I". Critique of the Gotha Program. Retrieved .
  2. ^ Busky, Donald F. (July 20, 2000). Democratic Socialism: A Global Survey. Praeger. p. 4. ISBN 978-0275968861. Communism would mean free distribution of goods and services. The communist slogan, 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs' (as opposed to 'work') would then rule
  3. ^ a b Schaff, Kory (2001). Philosophy and the problems of work: a reader. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 224. ISBN 978-0-7425-0795-1.
  4. ^ a b Walicki, Andrzej (1995). Marxism and the leap to the kingdom of freedom: the rise and fall of the Communist utopia. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-8047-2384-8.
  5. ^ Was wollen die Kommunisten, 1844, p. 34.
  6. ^ Louis Blanc, Plus de Girondins, 1851, p. 92.
  7. ^ Graeber, David (2013). The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement. New York: Spiegel & Grau. pp. 293-294. ISBN 9780812993561. OCLC 810859541.
  8. ^ Norman E. Bowie, Towards a new theory of distributive justice (1971), p. 82.
  9. ^ Gregory Titelman, Random House dictionary of popular proverbs & sayings (1996), p. 108.
  10. ^ The Guilford Covenant
  11. ^ Joseph Arthur Baird, The Greed Syndrome: An Ethical Sickness in American Capitalism (1989), p. 32.
  12. ^ Marshall Berman, Adventures in Marxism (2000), p. 151.
  13. ^ Part 1, Critique of the Gotha Programme,, quoting Marx/Engels Selected Works, Volume Three, p. 13-30.
  14. ^ Bli?a?khman, Leonid Solomonovich; Shkaratan, Ovse? Irmovich (1977). Man at Work: The Scientific and Technological Revolution, the Soviet Working Class and Intelligentsia. Progress. p. 155. Retrieved .
  15. ^ Johnson, Hewlett (1968). Searching for light: an autobiography. Joseph. Retrieved .
  16. ^ Ken Post; Phil Wright (1989). Socialism and underdevelopment. Routledge. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-415-01628-5.
  17. ^ Geoffrey Jukes (1973). The Soviet Union in Asia. University of California Press. p. 225. ISBN 978-0-520-02393-2.
  18. ^ Finley, Tom. "The Parable of the Talents and the Parable of the Minas (Matt. 25:14-30 and Lk. 19:11-27)" (PDF).

Further reading

External links

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