It seems that everyone agrees that Louis Blanc was the first to say "à chacun selon ses besoins, de chacun selon ses facultés", which is often translated as "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."

His authorship is listed by tons of web quotes pages, as well as original sources, such as:

The formula of association then is as follows; it is thus enunciated by Louis Blanc:

From each according to his ability.
To each according to his needs.

(Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, in his 1851 The General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century.)

Most web quote pages attribute the quote to 1839 L'Organisation du travail (study of Labor organizations).

But when I tried to search "L'Organisation du travail" (the French text of the work), I got no results.

When and where did Louis Blanc say the famous "from each according to his abilities..."?

  • Wikipedia states that the quote is an adaptation of an earlier one by Henri de Saint-Simon. Apr 23, 2013 at 14:18
  • 1
    @coleopterist - do you have the Saint-Simon quote? I am not very good at reading French (understatement of the century)
    – DVK
    Apr 23, 2013 at 15:09
  • Neither am I. But Google Translate translates "À chacun selon ses capacités, à chaque capacité selon ses œuvres" to "To each according to his capacity, to each capacity according to his works". Apr 23, 2013 at 15:19
  • @coleopterist - that's a different (Stalinist flavor) version then.
    – DVK
    Apr 23, 2013 at 15:20

1 Answer 1


I'm having trouble locating it in the 1839 L'Organisation du travail.

The earliest mention I've been able to find is from Louis Blanc 1851 brochure Plus de Girondins on page 92:

De chacun selon ses facultés, à chacun selon ses besoins

This exact phrasing is asserted as being the original one by French Wikipedia article.

A less-trusted, secondary source mentions another secondary source that reportedly attributes a similar phrase to some unspecified 1831 work by Enfantin, see Crisis and the Apocalypse of Man footnote 8 on page 315. But I would expect it to be as far as "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his work", which is quite a different idea.

Enfantin was one of saint-simonians, which might explain why someone would attribute the quote (correctly or incorrectly) to Saint-Simon.

  • No self respecting ideologist will ever let the truth interfere with a good quote. May 4, 2018 at 19:01

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