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Karl Marx


Karl Marx

Karl Marx

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Best Known For:

  • Major figure in the founding of sociology
  • Socio-political theory of Marxism
  • The Communist Manifesto


Karl Marx was born May 5, 1818.


He died of cancer on March 14, 1883.

Early Life And Education:

Karl Marx was born in Trier, Prussia (present-day Germany). While he attended a Lutheran elementary school growing up, he later became an atheist and a materialist. In 1835, Marx enrolled in Bonn University in Germany where he took courses in law, however, he was much more interested in philosophy and literature. One year later, he enrolled him at the University of Berlin. Marx soon felt at home when he joined a circle of brilliant and extreme thinkers who were challenging existing institutions and ideas, including religion, philosophy, ethics, and politics. Marx graduated with his doctoral degree in 1841.

Career and Later Life:

After school, Marx turned to writing and journalism to support himself. In 1842 he became the editor of the liberal Cologne newspaper Rheinische Zeitung, but the Berlin government prohibited it from publication the following year. He then moved to Brussels, Belgium, where he founded the German Workers’ Party and was active in the Communist League. Here he wrote his most famous work Communist Manifesto. After being exiled from Belgium and France, Marx finally settled in London where he lived as a stateless exile for the rest of his life.

In London, Marx worked in journalism and wrote for both German and English language publications. From 1852 to 1862 he was also a correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune, writing a total of 355 articles. He also continued writing and formulating his theories about the nature of society and how he believed it could be improved, as well as actively campaigning for socialism.

Marx's theories about society, economics and politics, which are collectively known as Marxism, argue that all society progresses through the dialectic of class struggle. He was heavily critical of the current socio-economic form of society, capitalism, which he called the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie," believing it to be run by the wealthy middle and upper classes purely for their own benefit, and predicted that it would inevitably produce internal tensions which would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by a new system, socialism. Under socialism, he argued that society would be governed by the working class in what he called the "dictatorship of the proletariat." He believed that socialism would eventually be replaced by a stateless, classless society called pure communism.

While Marx remained a relatively unknown figure in his own lifetime, his ideas and the ideology of Marxism began to exert a major influence on socialist movements shortly after his death. Marx has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history, and in a 1999 BBC poll was voted the "thinker of the millennium" by people from around the world.

Other Major Publications

  • The German Ideology (1845)
  • Wage-Labor and Capital (1847)
  • A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859)
  • Capital (Das Kapital) (1867)


Manuel, Frank Edward. (1995). A Requiem for Karl Marx. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Johnson, A. (1995). The Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers.

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