Karl Marx

Karl Marx was an important German philosopher, known internationally as one of the creators of scientific socialism, an ideology critical of capitalism.

Karl Marx was a German philosopher and revolutionary who was known for being one of the formulators of scientific socialism, the most popular branch of socialism . Marx was born into an upper-class Prussian family, but came into contact with radical ideals throughout his educational training.

He became critical of capitalism , considering it necessary for this model to be overcome. He developed the theory of scientific socialism with Friedrich Engels, carrying out a detailed analysis of capitalism and proposing that capitalism would be overcome by a revolution of the proletariat, which would lead to the establishment of communism .

Summary about Karl Marx

  • Karl Marx was a German philosopher and revolutionary known for being one of the formulators of scientific socialism.
  • He belonged to an upper-class family and began his academic studies in Law, but decided to pursue the field of Philosophy .
  • He was expelled from Prussia, France and Belgium because of his revolutionary writings.
  • He married Jenny von Westphalen, with whom he had seven children (only three survived childhood).
  • Among his most famous books are Communist Manifesto , The German Ideology and Capital .
  • He argued that capitalism should be overcome, and this would happen through a revolution led by the proletariat .

Video lesson about Karl Marx

Origins of Karl Marx

Karl Heinrich Marx was born in the city of Trier, now Germany, on May 5, 1818 . However, at the time, Marx’s city of origin was part of the Kingdom of Prussia. Marx belonged to a family of Jews who did not practice the Jewish religion and who, in fact, had converted to Lutheranism, the predominant religion in Prussia.

He belonged to an upper-class family and owned numerous possessions. Marx’s father was called Heinrich Marx, a successful lawyer. He had abandoned Judaism at the beginning of the 19th century due to the persecution that Jews suffered in Prussian society and the ban on them taking positions in the government.

Heinrich Marx was an intellectual man, but he was politically conservative and a staunch defender of the Kingdom of Prussia, a convinced patriot and supporter of monarchism. Marx’s mother, Henriett Pressburg, was a Dutch Jew who belonged to a fairly prosperous family.

Marx was the third of nine children that the couple formed by Heinrich and Henriett had. The two eldest sons died at an early age, and Karl Marx became the eldest. As a member of an aristocratic family, Marx had access to an excellent education and attended a school that was inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment .Don’t stop now… There’s more after the advertising 😉

Education of Karl Marx

Marx entered university in 1835 , when he was just 16 years old. He was enrolled at the University of Bonn to study Law , thus following in his own father’s footsteps. However, Marx wanted to study other areas, such as Philosophy, for example. The choice for Law was at Heinrich’s insistence, because Law allowed better professional career options.

Karl Marx was a good student, he dedicated himself diligently to the course subjects, but he was also very dedicated to bohemia. Marx’s involvement with parties and the unrestrained consumption of alcoholic beverages made his father decide to transfer him to a university so that his academic performance would not be affected.

He then enrolled in a law course at the University of Berlin. Marx studied Law for some time, but with the death of his father in 1838, he decided to enroll in Philosophy . During this course, he came into contact with Hegel’s ideas, which had a great impact on him in his youth.

In Berlin, he also began to coexist with a series of thinkers who asked important questions about Prussian politics and society. In 1841, he obtained a doctorate by submitting a thesis at the University of Jena. Marx’s desire from this point on was to pursue an academic career, but he never succeeded, because his criticism of the Prussian government made him disaffected , and he was persecuted in his own country.

Professional life of Karl Marx

Photograph of Karl Marx with a voluminous gray beard, in black and white.
Karl Marx began to expose his socialist ideology while writing for newspapers and criticizing the government.

After obtaining his doctorate and failing to find a job as an academic professor, Karl Marx decided to take a risk as a journalist. He went on to write some articles for a newspaper called Gazeta Renana in 1842, becoming editor-in-chief, but Marx’s stay in that newspaper was short. Critical of the Prussian government, the newspaper was closed by government order.

In the newspaper, Marx exposed his socialist ideology , expressed his economic opinions and promoted criticism of the government . After the newspaper closed, Marx left Prussia and moved to Paris, where he started working at another newspaper, the Franco – German Annals .

In Paris, Marx met Friedrich Engels , who became his best friend for the rest of his life. There, Marx also had greater contact with the reality of blue-collar workers , in addition to having experienced a series of financial difficulties due to the lack of work he faced. This was a reality that Marx and his wife, Jenny (married in 1843), faced together throughout their lives.

Karl Marx also worked for another Prussian newspaper, but it was based in Paris. This was Forward! , a newspaper with a radical ideology that deeply criticized the Prussian monarchy. Once again, Marx’s role in the newspaper was limited, because it was closed by the French government at the request of the Prussian government. Furthermore, Marx was expelled from France.

In the following years, the thinker was expelled from Belgium and, in 1849, he decided to settle in London. The 1840s were a landmark moment in his intellectual trajectory, as it was during this period that he consolidated a series of changes in the way of thinking and gave rise to what we know as scientific socialism.

What is the relationship between Karl Marx and socialism?

Karl Marx is considered the founder, along with Friedrich Engels, of scientific socialism , a political, economic and philosophical ideology that became known for criticizing capitalism, proposing its overcoming. The German philosopher also carried out an in-depth study of capitalism, seeking to explain its history and functioning.

Firstly, Marx became a critic of the socialist aspects that existed in his time and called them utopian socialism . Among some of the representatives of this socialism are Robert Owen and Charles Fourier, for example. The representatives of this ideology did not think heterogeneously and did not have ideals as radical as Marx’s.

Karl Marx, in his theory, developed a scientific analysis of capitalism , also establishing the way in which it would be overcome. Marx argued that the history of humanity was based on class struggle, that is, on the struggle of an exploited class against a class of exploiters. In the context in which he lived, he understood that the exploiters were the bourgeoisie — holders of the means of production — and the exploited were the workers — whom he called the proletariat.

The thinker understood that it was necessary for the proletariat to become aware of the exploitation to which it was subjected. From that moment on, a revolutionary process would be carried out, and the proletarians would establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, a socialist government that would promote the necessary changes to combat the inequalities of the capitalist order.

With the socialization of the means of production and combated inequalities, society would become equal, and all human beings would have access to work and would share, each with their own possibilities, the wealth produced. At this stage, communism would be established and social classes and the State would be definitively abolished.

Throughout his career as a representative of scientific socialism, Marx wrote important books , such as:

  • Communist Manifesto ;
  • The German Ideology ;
  • Capital .

Marx was an ardent supporter of workers’ movements and supported important revolutionary events that took place in Europe, such as the Revolutions of 1848 and the Paris Commune .

Last years of Karl Marx’s life

Marx’s personal life was marked by the economic difficulties he and his wife experienced. To a large extent, they depended on the inheritances they received from their families — Marx and Jenny von Westphalen were from very wealthy families. Furthermore, the thinker received financial help from Friedrich Engels at some points in his life.

Marx and Jenny had seven children together, but only three survived childhood. The poor conditions in which Marx and his family lived contributed to four of his children not being able to survive childhood. In 1881, Jenny von Westphalen died due to complications from cancer.

Karl Marx did not live much longer after his wife’s death . He developed serious lung problems because he had a frequent smoking habit. He had bronchitis and pleuritis and died on March 14, 1883, in London . Karl Marx was 64 years old and at the time of his death, he was stateless, that is, he had no nationality.

Despite the difficulties he experienced, the work of Karl Marx, also known as Marxism, promoted countless political and economic changes in the world throughout the 20th century. His writings, even written in the 19th century, have enormous relevance in understanding capitalism in the 21st century.