“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is a phrase that was popularized by Karl Marx in his 1875 work, “Critique of the Gotha Program.” The statement is often seen as the core principle of a fully developed communist society, though similar phrases can be found in earlier work by other thinkers.
The quote encapsulates two fundamental principles: “From each according to his ability” suggests that in a communist society, each person contributes to the society to the best of their capacity or ability. Everyone works and produces in accordance with their talents, skills, and capabilities. “To each according to his needs” means that the resources and output of the society are distributed based on individual needs, rather than, for example, individual wealth or social standing. Everyone’s basic needs are met, regardless of their personal contribution to the production of wealth.
In essence, this quote describes an ideal society in which everyone works according to their abilities and receives what they need to live a decent life, without the economic inequalities seen in capitalist societies. It’s worth noting that Marx viewed this principle as the goal of a mature communist society, to be achieved after a transitional socialist phase. He acknowledged that the practical implementation of this principle would be complex and would require a profound transformation of society.