chapter  1
48 Pages

A General Class Theory

Engels, and others within and without the Marxian tradition did produce diverse conceptualizations of communism, and they still do. 1 Indeed, the idea of communism as the "good life" existed for centuries prior to the works of Marx and Engels. Consider, for example, the believers for whom true Christianity arrived only when individuals renounced their worldly property and affirmed the distribution of material wealth to others on the basis of their needs.2 Closer but still before Marx and Engels, the "utopian socialists" argued for establishing communal societies ruled by reason and good will in contrast to the anarchy and greed they saw in the ruthless capitalism of their day. 3

We hold that all theorizations of communism so far have lacked two key qualities. First, no systematically nondeterminist (i.e., antiessentialist) perspective has been applied to define and elaborate a concept of communism. Secondly, no class perspective has been applied where class refers to the social organization of surplus: how it is produced, appropriated, and distributed in a distinctively communist way. Such a nondeterminist, class conceptualization of communism was missing not only from theorizations but also from the socialist and communist movements associated with them.