Withering away of the state
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Withering away of the state is a concept of Marxism, coined by Friedrich Engels, and referring to the idea that the social institution of a state will eventually become obsolete and disappear, as the society will be able to govern itself without the state and its coercive enforcement of the law.
Origin of the phrase
|“||The interference of the state power in social relations becomes superfluous in one sphere after another, and then ceases of itself. The government of persons is replaced by the administration of things and the direction of the processes of production. The state is not “abolished,” it withers away.||”|
Another related quote from Engels comes from Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State:
|“||The society which organizes production anew on the basis of free and equal association of the producers will put the whole state machinery where it will then belong–into the museum of antiquities, next to the spinning wheel and the bronze ax.||”|
The idea was first introduced by Engels, who attributed the underlying concept to Karl Marx; it would later be expanded on by other Marxist theorists including Vladimir Lenin. According to this concept, a communist society will eventually require no coercion to force individuals to behave in a way that benefits the society. Such a society would be reached after a temporary period of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
This argument was based on Marx's argument that coercive power is a tool of those who own means of production, i.e. the certain social classes (the bourgeois) and the capitalist state. In a communist society, the social classes would disappear and the means of production would have no single owner; hence, in such a stateless society, law will no longer be required, and the stateless communism, a communist utopia, will develop.
The concept of the withering of the state differentiates the traditional Marxism from socialism statism (which was content to retain the institution of the state) and antistatism anarchism (which demanded that the state should be abolished right away, with no need for any "temporary", postrevolutionary institution of the state).
In the Soviet Marxism, while Lenin was supportive of the withering of the state idea, as seen in his State and Revolution, other leaders, such as Joseph Stalin, argued that the communist state is needed, primarily for defense against external enemies, and thus the notion of the withering of the state was marginalized.
- From each according to his ability, to each according to his need
- Post-scarcity economy
- State failure
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- "Withering Away of the State." In The Encyclopedia of Political Science, edited by George Thomas Kurian. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2011. http://library.cqpress.com/teps/encyps_1775.1.
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- Frederick Engels. "Origins of the Family- Chapter IX". Marxists.org. Retrieved 2012-12-26.
- Jianmin Zhao; Bruce J. Dickson (2001). Remaking the Chinese State: Strategies, Society, and Security. Taylor & Francis Group. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-415-25583-7. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
- Surin, Kenneth (1990). "Marxism(s) and "The Withering Away of the State"". Social Text (27): 35–54.
- Bloom, Solomon F. (1946). "The "Withering Away" of the State". Journal of the History of Ideas 7 (1): 113–121.