An Anarchist Interpretation of Marx’s “Ability to Needs” Principle
In “Critique of the Gotha Program,” Karl Marx presents what is generally considered to be the most developed statement of his positive vision of communist society. Notably, this account includes a principle of production and distribution—“from each according to [their] ability, to each according to [their] needs!”—that many have interpreted as providing normative guidance to those structuring the political economy. As one might expect, many of those drawn to Marx’s principle (henceforward the “Ability to Needs” principle, or, more briefly, the ANP)1 are socialists who see the principle as endorsing some version of state-managed socialism. However, the principle has also been embraced by a number of prominent anarchists who see it as partially grounding their vision of a stateless socialist society.2
Given that the two groups share a common commitment to both the ANP and socialism, one might be tempted conclude that their normative disagreements are limited to questions of...