Karl Marx was a Jewish-born German historian, philosopher, and economist who is widely regarded as the founder of communism. Marx’s most famous works are The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Das Kapital (1867-1894 in three volumes), but he also wrote dozens of books, articles, and tracts during his lifetime. Marx was born on May 5, 1818, in Trier, Prussia, which later became part of Germany, to Heinrich and Henriette Marx. Despite having Jewish ancestors on both sides of his family, including rabbis, Marx’s father converted to Christianity, and he was raised in a more secular household. Marx received his PhD from Jenna University in 1841. Marx traveled throughout Europe after university, working as a professional writer and editor for left-wing newspapers and developing his radical ideas that would later become known as Marxism and communism. In 1843, Marx married Jenny von Westphalen and had seven children. They were married until her death in 1881.
Marx’s historical and economic ideas were heavily influenced by the German philosopher Georg Hegel, specifically the concept of thesis and antithesis. Marx saw world history as a never-ending struggle between oppressors (thesis) and oppressed (thesis) (antithesis). Marx argued, using Hegelian logic, that the conflict between thesis and antithesis destroys both and creates a new thesis.
Marx was friends with the German-Jewish philosopher Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto was co-written by the two men.
Marx returned to Germany in 1848 after spending several years in France and Belgium, but was exiled to England after the Kaiser associated him with nationalist rebellions.
The distinctions between socialism, Marxism, and communism are frequently blurred, making definitions arbitrary. Communism is widely regarded as Marxism in practice, with the state controlling production and attempting to reduce class differences.
Despite being an ardent socialist/communist, Engels came from a wealthy family, which helped fund his revolutionary lifestyle and, to a lesser extent, Marx’s.
During the 1850s, Marx contributed to the New York Daily Tribune.
Karl Marx once said, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”
Karl Marx died of bronchitis on March 14, 1883, at the age of 64, in London, England. His body was interred in Highgate Cemetery, which still has a large monument to him.
Marx rejected nationalism and national boundaries, believing that one day the “international proletariat” would band together globally against their oppressors. As a result, it is perhaps fitting that Marx died a stateless person.
Karl Marx’s impact was likely even greater after his death. His concept of history, dubbed “historical materialism,” became popular in left-wing circles, and his economic ideas served as the foundation for twentieth-century socialism and communism.
During the Cold War, communist states erected statues of Marx all over the world, and many of them still stand today.
Marxist philosophy has had a significant influence on modern academic theories such as Critical Theory and Critical Race Theory.