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Communist society

This article is about the hypothetical stage of socioeconomic development. For the economic system in the former Eastern bloc Communist states, see Soviet-type economic planning.

The communist society (or communist system) is the type of society and economic system postulated to emerge from technological advances in the productive forces in the theory of Marxism, and is the ultimate goal of the political ideology of Communism. A communist society is based upon common ownership of the means of production with free access[1][2] to the articles of consumption and is classless and stateless,[3] implying the end of economic exploitation. Karl Marx referred to this stage of development as upper-stage communism.[4]

Communism is a specific stage of socioeconomic development that emerges from technological advances in the productive forces that leads to a superabundance of material wealth, allowing for distribution based on need and social relations based on freely-associated individuals.[5][6]

The term "communist society" should be distinguished from "communist state", the latter referring to a state ruled by a party which professes a variation of Marxist-Leninism.[7]

Economic aspects

A communist economic system is characterized by advanced productive technology that enables material abundance, which in turn enables the free distribution of most or all economic output and the holding of the means of producing this output in common. In this respect communism is differentiated from socialism, which, out of economic necessity, restricts access to articles of consumption and services based on one's contribution.[8]

In further contrast to previous economic systems, communism would be characterized by the holding of natural resources and the means of production in common as opposed to them being privately owned (as in the case of capitalism) or owned by public or cooperative organizations that similarly restrict access (as in the case of socialism). In this sense, communism involves the "negation of property" insofar as there would be little economic rationale for exclusive control over production assets in an environment of material abundance.[9]

Social aspects

Communist society would free individuals from long work hours by first eliminating exploitation and the division between workers and owners, and secondly by advanced technology and automated production that would free individuals from alienation in the sense of having one's life structured around survival (making a wage or salary in a capitalist system). As a result, a communist society would be characterized by an intellectually-inclined population with the time and resources to pursue their interests and hobbies and contribute to social and creative wealth in that manner. Karl Marx considered "true richness" to be the amount of time one has at his or her disposal to pursue one's creative passions.[10]

This goes hand-in-hand with Marx's idea of the ending of the division of labor, which would not be required in a society with highly automated production and limited work roles.

Likewise, a communist society would have no need for a state, whose purpose was to enforce hierarchical economic relations, enforce exclusive control of property, and the regulation of capitalistic economic activities - all of which would be non-applicable to a communist system.[11][9]

In a communist society, economic relations no longer would determine the society. Scarcity would be eliminated in all possible aspects.[9] Alienated labor would cease, as people would be free to pursue their individual goals.[11] This kind of society is identified by the slogan put forth by Karl Marx: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."[9] Marx never clearly said whether communist society would be just; others have speculated that he thought communism would transcend justice and create society without conflicts, thus, without the needs for rules of justice.[12] Communist society would be democratic, not merely in the sense of electoral democracy, but in being characterized by an open and collaborative social and workplace environment.[9]

Marx also wrote that between capitalist and communist society, there would be a transitory period known as the dictatorship of the proletariat.[9] During this preceding phase of societal development, capitalist economic relationships would be abolished and in place would arise socialism. Natural resources and earth would become public property, while all manufacturing centres and workplaces would become owned by their workers and democratically managed. Production would be organised by scientific assessment and planning, thus eliminating what Marx called the "anarchy in production". The development of the productive forces would lead to the marginalisation of human labour to the highest possible extent, replacing with automated labour.

Open-source and peer production

Many aspects of a communist economy have emerged in recent decades in the form of open-source software and hardware, where source code and thus the means of producing software is held in common and freely-accessible to everyone; and to the processes of peer production where collaborative work processes produce freely-available software that does not rely on monetary valuation. Michel Bauwens juxtaposes open source and peer production with "market production".[13]

In Soviet ideology

The communist economic system was officially enumerated as the ultimate goal of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in its party platform. According to the 1986 Programme of the CPSU:

"Communism is a classless social system with one form of public ownership of the means of production and with full social equality of all members of society. Under communism, the all-round development of people will be accompanied by the growth of the productive forces on the basis of continuous progress in science and technology, all the springs of social wealth will flow abundantly, and the great principle "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" will be implemented. Communism is a highly organised society of free, socially conscious working people a society in which public self-government will be established, a society in which labour for the good of society will become the prime vital requirement of everyone, a clearly recognised necessity, and the ability of each person will be employed to the greatest benefit of the people.
The material and technical foundation of communism presupposes the creation of those productive forces that open up opportunities for the full satisfaction of the reasonable requirements of society and the individual. All productive activities under communism will be based on the use of highly efficient technical facilities and technologies, and the harmonious interaction of man and nature will be ensured.
In the highest phase of communism the directly social character of labour and production will become firmly established. Through the complete elimination of the remnants of the old division of labour and the essential social differences associated with it, the process of forming a socially homogeneous society will be completed.
Communism signifies the transformation of the system of socialist self-government by the people, of socialist democracy into the highest form of organisation of society - communist public self-government. With the maturation of the necessary socio-economic and ideologial preconditions and the involvement of all citizens in administration, the socialist state - given appropriate international conditions - will, as Lenin noted, increasingly become a transitional form "from a state to a non-state." The activities of state bodies will become non-political in nature, and the need for the state as a special political institution will gradually disappear.
The inalienable feature of the communist mode of life is a high level of consciousness, social activity, discipline, and self-discipline of members of society, in which observance of the uniform, generally accepted rules of communist conduct will become an inner need and habit of every person.
Communism is a social system under which the free development of each is a condition for the free development of all."[14]

In Vladimir Lenin's political theory, a classless society would be a society controlled by the direct producers, organised to produce according to socially managed goals. Such a society, Lenin suggested, would develop habits that would gradually make political representation unnecessary, as the radically democratic nature of the Soviets would lead citizens to come to agree with the representatives' style of management. Only in this environment, Lenin suggested, could the state wither away, ushering in a period of stateless communism.[citation needed]

Fictional portrayals

Iain M. Banks' Culture series of novels are centered around a communist post-scarcity economy where technology is advanced to such a degree that all production is automated and thus any concept of money and property is nonexistent. Humans in the Culture are free to pursue their own interests in an open and tolerant society.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Steele, David Ramsay (September 1999). From Marx to Mises: Post Capitalist Society and the Challenge of Economic Calculation. Open Court. p. 66. ISBN 978-0875484495. Marx distinguishes between two phases of marketless communism: an initial phase, with labor vouchers, and a higher phase, with free access. 
  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. ^ O'Hara, Phillip (September 2003). Encyclopedia of Political Economy, Volume 2. Routledge. p. 836. ISBN 0-415-24187-1. it influenced Marx to champion the ideas of a 'free association of producers' and of self-management replacing the centralized state. 
  4. ^ Critique of the Gotha Programme, Karl Marx.
  5. ^ Critique of the Gotha Programme, Karl Marx.
  6. ^ Full Communism: The Ultimate Goal
  7. ^ Busky, Donald F. (July 20, 2000). Democratic Socialism: A Global Survey. Praeger. p. 9. ISBN 978-0275968861. In a modern sense of the word, communism refers to the ideology of Marxism-Leninism. 
  8. ^ Gregory and Stuart, Paul and Robert (2003). Comparing Economic Systems in the Twenty-First. South-Western College Pub. p. 118. ISBN 0-618-26181-8. Communism, the highest stage of social and economic development, would be characterized by the absence of markets and money and by abundance, distribution according to need, and the withering away of the state…Under socialism, each individual would be expected to contribute according to capability, and rewards would be distributed in proportion to that contribution. Subsequently, under communism, the basis of reward would be need. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Barry Stewart Clark (1998). Political economy: a comparative approach. ABC-CLIO. pp. 57–59. ISBN 978-0-275-96370-5. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  10. ^ Marx, Theorien uber der Mehwert III, ed. K. Kautsky (Stuttgart, 1910), pp. 303-4.
  11. ^ a b Craig J. Calhoun (2002). Classical sociological theory. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 23–23. ISBN 978-0-631-21348-2. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  12. ^ "Karl Marx – Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy". . First published Tue Aug 26, 2003; substantive revision Mon Jun 14, 2010. Accessed March 4 2011.
  13. ^ Michel Bauwens (22 March 2014). "From the Communism of Capital to a Capital for the Commons". P2P Foundation. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  15. ^ Cramer & Hartwell, Kathryn & David G. (10 July 2007). The Space Opera Renaissance. Orb Books. p. 298. ISBN 978-0765306180. Iain M. Banks and his brother-in-arms, Ken MacLeod, both take a Marxist line: Banks with his communist-bloc 'Culture' novels, and MacLeod with his 'hard-left libertarian' factions. 

Further reading