Karl Heinrich Marx

 

Overview of life


Karl Heinrich Marx (5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a Prussian-German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the establishment of the social sciences and the development of the socialist movement. He is also considered one of the greatest economists of all time. He published numerous books during his lifetime, the most notable being The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Capital (1867–1894). He worked closely with his friend and fellow revolutionary socialist, Friedrich Engels.

Born into a wealthy middle-class family in Trier in the Prussian Rhineland, Marx studied at the University of Bonn and the University of Berlin, where he became interested in the philosophical ideas of the Young Hegelians. In 1836 he became engaged to Jenny von Westphalen, whom he married in 1843. After his studies, he wrote for a radical newspaper in Cologne, and began to work out his theory of dialectical materialism. After moving to Paris in 1843, he began writing for other radical newspapers. He met Engels in Paris, and the two men worked together on a series of books. Exiled to Brussels, he became a leading figure of the Communist League, before moving back to Cologne and founding his own newspaper. In 1849 he was exiled again and moved to London together with his wife and children. In London, where the family was reduced to poverty, Marx continued writing and formulating his theories about the nature of society and how he believed it could be improved. He also campaigned for socialism and became a significant figure in the International Workingmen's Association.

Marx's theories about society, economics and politics—collectively known as Marxism—hold that human societies progress through the dialectic of class struggle: a conflict between an ownership class that controls production and a proletariat that provides the labour for production. He called capitalism the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie", believing it to be run by the wealthy classes purely for their own benefit; and he predicted that, like previous socioeconomic systems, capitalism would inevitably produce internal tensions which would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by a new system: socialism. He argued that under socialism society would be governed by the working class in what he called the "dictatorship of the proletariat", the "workers' state" or "workers' democracy". He believed that socialism would, in its turn, eventually be replaced by a stateless, classless society called communism. Along with believing in the inevitability of socialism and communism, Marx actively fought for the former's implementation, arguing that social theorists and underprivileged people alike should carry out organised revolutionary action to topple capitalism and bring about socio-economic change.

Revolutionary socialist governments espousing Marxist concepts took power in a variety of countries in the 20th century, leading to the formation of such socialist states as the Soviet Union in 1922 and the People's Republic of China in 1949. Many labour unions and workers' parties worldwide were also influenced by Marxist ideas, while various theoretical variants, such as Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, and Maoism, were developed from them. Marx is typically cited, with Émile Durkheim and Max Weber, as one of the three principal architects of modern social science. Marx has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history.