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  The core idea of communism, holding property in common, is very ancient. In agrarian societies communism was prescribed as the best way to realize ascetic or anti-materialist virtues, and to prevent the flourishing of selfish individualism or egoism. In early Western Utopian thought, from Plato\'s Republic to Thomas More\'s Utopia, communal holding of possessions was advocated to prevent rulers, and others, from becoming corrupt. The same ideals were present in early Christian social thought: poverty, chastity and obedience were vital components of the monastic Christian life. Usually this kind of agrarian and ascetic communism was associated with respect for strong organizational hierarchies, in which the best would govern society.

Advocacy of the communist ideal in modern or industrial societies, by contrast, has not been associated with ascetic or hierarchical Utopias. Indeed, in Marxist thinking ‘communism’, the final stage of history, is envisaged as a society of absolute material abundance in which class division and the division of labour are no longer necessary because the production problems of the human race have been resolved. In this ideology the full realization of equality, liberty, community and abundance are all considered possible after the capitalist mode of production, having fully developed the productive forces, has been abolished.

Critics of modern communism maintain that the protection of some minimal private property rights are in fact preconditions of democracy, liberty and efficiency, and that in practice so-called communist régimes have betrayed their own egalitarian ideals establishing dictatorial and corrupt élites who effectively control an atomized and dependent population. BO\'L

See also historical materialism; socialism and social democracy.Further reading Émile Durkheim, Socialism and Saint-Simon; , A. Ryan, Property and Political Theory.



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