The Free Association of Abilities and Needs

Emanuel Almborg
Pages 111–137| Published online: 30 March 2024

Almborg, Emanuel. 2024. “A Free Association of Abilities and Needs.” Marxism & Sciences 3(1): 111–137.


The communist ideal—“from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”—presupposes the self-evidence of “need” and “ability.” Yet the terms’ precise meanings are seldom elaborated. Turning to Evald Ilyenkov and Agnes Heller, this article reconstructs concepts of need and ability adequate to Marxism. In so doing, the article distinguishes a distinctly Marxist theory of need, as found in Heller, from more crudely biological and liberal alternatives, demonstrating its compatibility with Ilyenkov’s anti-essentialist theory of ability. The upshot, I argue, is both an enriched understanding communist organisation and a reassessment of political subjectivity, reorienting focus to the radical potential of those made “disabled” in capitalism.

KEYWORDS: Karl Marx, Evald Ilyenkov, Agnes Heller, Alexander Suvorov, disability, ability, need, pedagogy, psychology, communism.


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