Marx, Karl
Karl Marx. Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)


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Marx, Karl


(b. Trier, Prussian Rhineland, 5 May 1818; d. London, England, 14 March 1883)

economics, history, philosophy, political science, sociology, history and sociology of science and technology.

Karl Marx was the third child and eldest son of Heinrich Marx (born 1782), a lawyer of local distinction and moderate wealth who was appointed magistrate a year after formal conversion to the Evangelical Lutheran church in1817. The elder Marx combined enlightened Voltairean and deist inclinations with middle-class cultural interests, liberal Prussian patriotism, and a strong paternal affection for Karl. Both Heinrich and his Dutch wife, Henriette Pressburg, came from distinguished rabbinical families, Heinrich’s having been of particular prominence since the early fifteenth century in Germany Italy, and Poland, and Henriette’s for a century in Holland and before that in Hungray. Although there was no Jewish education or tradition in the upbringing of their children–indeed, the home was deliberately separated from family connections— Jewish self consciousness was to some extent unavoidable. There were nine children of whom four survived early childhood.

Marx was educated (1830–1835) at the Fried rich Wilhelm-Gymnasium in Trier, formerly a Jesu it school, where he was influenced chiefly by the headmaster, who was also the history teacher. But greater encouragement came from his father’s interest in the poet Gotthold Lessing and the French classics, and from their devoted neighbor, Baron Ludwig von Westphalen, who, with warmhearted-enthusiam, read Homer, Dante Cervantes, and Shakespeare as well as such advanced political thinkers as Saint-Simon, with young Marx. To his mother Karl was “the best and most beloved” and he wrote to his father of his “angel of a mother” despite the lack of any mutual intellectual or political sympathy. Heinrich Marx died in 1838, Henriette Marx in 1863

During 1835–1841, Marx studied at the Universities of Bonn and Berlin reading law at his father’s request but turning to philosophy and history. After initial resistance, he studied Hegel thoroughly, in part through the lectures of Eduard Gans but more deeply with an intellectual club of somewhat older philosophers among them Bruno Bauer and later Arnold Ruge. In 1836 Marx became engaged to Jenny von Westphalen, daughter of his beloved older friends; they were married in 1843. Hoping for an academic career, he submitted a dissertation entitled “The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophies of Nature”to the University of Jena in 1841 and was awarded the doctorate. Central to that dissertation was Marx’s praise for Epicurus’s addition of spontaneity –the famous“swerve”to the determinism of the Democritean atomic dynamics, and for the Epicurean recognition of an animate level of human will along with the inanimate level of human will along with the inanimate mechanisms of natural necessity.

Immersed for some time in the history of philosophy Marx followed Hegel’s cultural setting of philosophical thought in an inherently rational and explicable sequence that is the historical as well as the systematic maturation of awareness and self awareness of the human spirit. The young Marx understood Hegel’s work to be also a fundamental advance in logic and methodology of inquiry, one that would enable philosophers to comprehend the movement of ideas in their actuality,their potentialities their mutual conflicts and inner tensions, and their syntheses. The scope of this outlook was vast, for it was to reach all the achievements of civilization with every specialty to be understood in its own historical development and in its relation to other; religions and philosophies but also the arts and literature fashions and superstitions, wars and revolutions, politics, jurisprudence, technologies, and the science of nature and of mankind. Above all, Marx thought that Hegel would make clear the relation of man to his environment, to his fellows, and to himself by a philosophy that was at once an epistemology, a history, and a psychology.

In contrast with the orthodox conservative reading of Hegel (according to which all that exists is to be understood by rational methods, and to be understood and defended as being rational, necessary, and good, the progressive embodiment of reason in history), Marx joined with the Young Hegelians in seeing basic challenge and change to be central for Hegel, with progress the recurring theme of the increasing self-awareness of human consciousness, in the larger society as much as in the philosophical mind. For young Marx the task of philosophical reason was to criticize whatever exists, whether in social institutions, religious doctrine, or the realm of ideas; for what exists is limited, always incompletely rational, and potentially open. Illusions, self-deceptions, group delusions, plain factual errors were to be exposed; the incompletely rational, the spurious, and the idolatrous would be recognized and, partly by being known, righted.

Not unexpectedly, the initial target of these young radical thinkers was religious doctrine, in its logic, its historical evidence, its social roles, and its relation to political interests and to scientific knowledge. Marx’s personal hero was Prometheus, “who stole fire from heaven and began to build houses and settle on earth .”Philosophy, for Marx,“turns itself against the world that it finds”.

If only on ideological grounds, Marx was unable to begin an academic career . His friend Bauer was dismissed from his teaching post at Bonn because of his secular critique of the Christian Gospels, and Marx, seeing his academic hopes disappearing, turned to journalism. He joined the staff of a liberal newspaper in Cologne, the Rhenished Zeitung; became editor by October 1842; and resigned early in 1843, just before the paper was closed by the Prussian censor. He met Friedrich Engels briefly in Cologne; and by their second meeting in Paris in 1844, a friendship had flourished that was to last until Marx’s death and to be an example of intimate collaboration, personal affection, steadfastness, and mutual respect.

Marx went to Paris in October 1843, already committed to a life that would combined sciencetific work with political activity. He had begun thorough studies of economics, in particular the writing of Adam Smith and Ricardo, and he was coming to terms with Hegelian and post-Hegelian philosophy. He joined the radical German colony in Paris, and collaborated in a short-lived publication. Arnold Ruge’s radical Deutsch französischre JahrbucherFor the first time Marx met revolutionary members of the urban working class; he knew the French socialist Prodhon the Germany poet Heine, and the Russian anarchist Bakunin; he associated himself with a secret communist group, the League of the Just; he became a socialist and a communist. He was in Paris for only three years but they were the years of his early maturity of his decisive intellectual professional and political transformation. From those years come his incisive and profound notebooks, published a century alter(the influential Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844) and his first writings with Engles.

Deported from France in 1845, Marx lived in Brussels until the revolutionary year of 1848 when he returned briefly to Paris at the invitation of the provisional government; he then went to Cologne to organize the Neue Rheinische Zeitung Within six months he had been charged with incitement to rebellion and tried in court Although acquitted in February 1849. Marx was expelled once more He stayed briefly in Paris was again ordered from France and in July 1849. settled himself and his family permanently in London Engles came to London in November of that year and in 1850 he settled in Manchester to work in his father textile firms thereby providing Marx, principal financial support.

Aside from some ten years writing political commentary mainly for the New York Tribune(1852–1862), Marx had no regular income. Despite Engle support he was often desperately poor and was beset by chronic and for extended periods very painful illnesses. In the 1860’s he wrote of the family’“humiliations torments and terrors”yet his three surviving daughters recalled with gratitude his unending story storytelling his games with them and his entrancing reading aloud from the whole of Homer, the Niebelungenlied Don Quixote the Arabian Nights and that Bible of the Marx household which was Shakespeare. 0nly in his last decade when Engele had retired from his prosperous business to settle in London was Marx somewhat free from financial trouble.

Marx’s political activities were manifold from his first contacts with working-class people in the early 1840’s his repeated organizational efforts; the German Communist League in Brussels (1847);various workers and democratic associations in subsequent years; the Manifesto of the Communist party written with Engles and published in 1848; the International Working Men’s Association of 1864 with its several congresses and its national section (ultimately dissolved in 1876 after a struggle with Bakunin); the uniting of the various German workers’; parties in 1875; continuing relations with the Chartists and with other British labor organizations efforts to assist refugees after the fall of Paris Commune in 1871; and throughout his life, a voluminous correspondence with European and American socialists and sympathetic thinkers and activists.

Nevertheless, Marx’s principal energies were devoted to his studies of empirical material and theoretical models relating to the development and functioning of modern European society, the political economy of capitalism. He saw the first volume of his chief work Das Kapital published in 1867; the second volume (1885) and the third (1894)were edited from Marx’s notes and drafts by Engels; further portions (1905–1910) were edited by Karl Kautsky. The important preparatory outlines and studies for Kapital the Grundrisse of 1857–1858 were first published at Moscow in 1939–1941 but became widely available only with the Berlin edition of 1953. Aside from these Marx’s works comprise more than a dozen monographs and treatises, and hundreds of shorter articles. Since 1957 the collected Marx-Engles Werke have appeared in forty volumes.

Marx and a science . Marx’s scientific work was entirely within the social sciences but on several counts his work related to the natural sciences.

First he sought to be scientific in his understanding of society. He gave recurrent attention to scientific methodology, at times in the context of comparing a natural science with social science but more often in his appreciative but critical fusion of Hegle’s mode of understanding with empirical studies or in his critical studies of the methods of classical political political economics. As general methodolgist of science, Marx is of historical and systeamatic interest beyond his great influence upon economis, history, and sociology.

Second Marx’s conception of explanation in social science was entirely historical with the consequence that he gave particular attention to the nature of historical understanding. Here again his methodological views are of broad interest, to the philosopher of science and to historians of ideas, as well as directly to the historian of science as historiographer, as specialist-investigator, and as historiographer, as sepcialist-investigator, and as the interpreter of science as a component of civilization.

Third, Marx’s central conception of natural science as a social phenomenon requires that historians and philosophers of science—and scientists—set their accounts of the cognitive as well as the practical character of science within the framework of an understanding of the societies within which science arises and develops. For Marx himself, as we shall see, this social character of science suggested an agenda of separate issues about the sciences. It required both a coherent Marxist history of science and technology, and the elaboration of a political economy of science, but Marx himself was unable to devote energy to these tasks.

Fourth, Marx’s materialist outlook upon mankind as situated within the natural environment, together with his conception of human emancipation through mastery of natural and social forces, bring his theory as well as in his epistemology and methodology. Here the relations between the Marxian dialectic, the Marxian understanding of materialism, and both of these with Marx’s concept of nature, take their place.

Science. The principal contribution of Karl Marx to the understanding of the sciences was his emphasis on their social character. Although he admired the great advances in knowledge that the sciences have provided, especially since the Renaissance—that is, he acknowledged the cognitive successes of the sciences–Marx nevertheless comprehended them as social phenomena. For the sciences to be social meant, to begin with, that they were part of the general social and economic processes of their times, changing with the changes in those historical processes; and if at times they were isolated from social forces, then they were understood as a product of social conflict and pressures that allow such isolation. To be social meant, further, to respond to socially produced motivations and purposes, and to do so with socially stimulated modes of inquiry and explanation, and criteria of success or failure.

At times a component of leisure-class playtime and the object of curiosity, and often characterized for many scientists by the pleasant fulfillment of creative labor rather than by the imposition of necessity, the sciences were nevertheless not in any full sense promoted by such pleasurable motivation, for in the development of the sciences Marx saw a central contribution to the grim and practical task of mastering nature. By the mid-nineteenth century, mastery had come to a novel and high point in human history, accompanied by the bourgeois revolution and the development of industrial capitalism. Where, Marx wrote,“…would natural science be without industry and commerce? Even this ’pure’ natural science is provided with an aim, as with its material, only through trade and industry, through the sensuous activity of men” (The German Ideology [New York ed.], 36).

As an element in the general historical process, science would be understood only in a completely historical way. Whether Hegelian or not in his historical epistemology, Marx imposed upon himself the task of comprehending scinece, like other human phenomena, within the political and economic history of mankind. Perhaps it is not evident that engineering, the technologies, and the practical arts must be described and understood in their social context and their historical development, with the external play of economic, military, political, cultural, and other forces upon them, as well as the internal sociology of inventivess, learning, and genius (these notions, too, would have to be investigated and supplemented, as well as set within historical contexts); but it was surely not so evident when Marx was writing. The noted pioneering works on the development of technology were Johann Beckmann’s Beiträge zur Geschichte der Erfindungen (5 vols. [Leipzig, 1782–1805]) and J. H. M. Poppe’s Geschichte der Technologie (3 vols. [Göttingen, 1807–1811]). Both were known to Marx, and neither paid much attention either to the steam engine in particular or to the industrial revolution at large. Even Charles Babbage limited himself to an analysis of individual technological accomplishments, rather than striving for general historical comprehension, in his standard work On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures (London, 1832).

The Marxian analysis is best seen in the detailed studies that constitute chapter 15,“Machinery and Modern Industry,” of volume I of Capital, particularly section 1, “The Development of Machinery.” Marx there sets himself the task of understanding the distinction between the two revolutions in mode of production: that of manufacture with labor power, which uses tools, and that of industrial production, which uses tools, and that of industrial production, which uses machinery. He sees the historical process to be from handicraftsmen who use tools to manufactures whose laborers are still craftsmen using tools to manufactures whose laborers are still craftsmen using tools but are socially linked through division of labor, with resulting reduction in labor cost. Then comes the drastically influential entry of machinery on the historical scene. His analysis may be given in several passages:

(1) On the general nature of productive machinery:

All fully developed machinery consists of three essentially different parts, the motor mechanism, the transmitting mechanism, and finally the tool or working-machine. The motor mechanism is that which puts the whole in motion. It either generates its own motive power, like the steam engine, the caloric engine, the electromagnetic machine, etc., or it receives its impulse from some already existing natural force, like the water-wheel from a head of water, the wind-mill from wind, etc.…The tool or working-machine is that part of the machinery with which the industrial revolution of the 18th century started. And to this day it constantly serves as such a starting point, whenever a handicraft, or a manufacture, is turned into an industry carried on by machinery (Capital, I, 367).

(2)On machines as distinct from human implements:

On a closer examination of the working-machine proper, we find in it, as a general rule, though often, no doubt, under very altered forms, the apparatus and tools used by the handicraftsman or manufacturing workman: with this difference, that instead of being human implements, they are the implements of a mechanism, or mechanical implements…. The machine proper is therefore a mechanism that, after being set in motion, performs with its tools the same operations that were formerly done by the workman with similar tools. Whether the motive power is derived from man, or from some other machine, makes no difference in this respect. From the moment that the tool proper is taken from man, and fitted into a mechanism, a machine takes the place of a mere implement. The difference strikes one at once, even in those cases where man himself continues to be the prime mover. The number of implements that he himself can use simultaneously is limited by the number of his own natural instruments of production, by the number of his bodily organs. In Germany, they tried at first to make one spinner work two spinning wheels, that is, to work simultaneously with both hands and both feet. This was too difficult. Later, a treadle spinning wheel with two spindles was invented, but adepts in spinning, who could spin two threads at once, were almost as scarce as two-headed men. The [spinning] Jenny, on the other hand, even at its birth, spun with 12–18 spindles, and the stocking-loom knits with many thousand needles at once. The number of tools that a machine can bring into play simultaneously, is from the very first emancipated from the organic limits that hedge in the tools of a handicraftsman…(Capital, 1,368, 370–371).

…apart from the fact that man is a very imperfect instrument for producing uniform continued motion but assuming that he is acting simply as a motor, that a machine has taken the place of his tool, it is evident that he can be replaced by natural forces…(capital, 1,370–371).

(3)On the change in scale of power required for industry:

Modern Industry had…itself to take in hand the machine, its characteristic instrument of production, and to construct machines by machines. It was not till it did this that it built up for itself a fitting technical foundation, and stood on its own feet…. But it was only during the decade preceding 1866, that the construction of railways and ocean steamers on a stupendous scale called into existence the cyclopean machines [steam engines] now employed in the construction of prime movers…capable of exerting any amount of force, and yet under perfect control.

…we find the manual implements reappearing, but [also] on a cyclopean scale. The operating part of the boring machine is an immense drill driven by a steamengine;…the tool of the shearing machine, which shears iron as easily as a tailor’s scissors cut cloth, is a monster pair of scissors; and the steam hammer works with an ordinary hammer head, but of such a weight that not Thor himself would wield it (capital, 1,373, 380–382).

(4) On the deliberate link of science with industry, and the social implication:

The implements of labour, in the form of machinery, necessitate the substitution of natural forces for human force, and the conscious application of science, instead of rule of thumb. In Manufacture, the organization of the social labour-process is purely subjective; it is a combination of detail labourers; [whereas] in its machinery system, Modern Industry has a productive organism that is purely objective, in which the labourer becomes a mere appendage to an already existing material condition of production. In simple cooperation, and even in that founded on division of labour, the suppression of the workman, isolated by the collective, still appears to be more or less accidental. Machinery, with a few exceptions to be mentioned later, operates only by means of associated labour, or labour in common. Hence the co-operative character of the labour-process is, in the latter case, a technical necessity dictated by the instrument of labour itself (Capital, 1,382).

(5) On the role of science in completing the role of the division of labor:

(a)…Intelligence in production expands in one direction, because it vanishes in many others. What is lost by the detail labourers, is concentrated in the capital that employs them. It is a result of the division of labour in manufactures, that the labourer is brought face to face with the intellectual potencies of the material process of production as the property of another, and as a ruling power. This separation begins in simple co-operation, where the capitalist represents, to the single workman, the oneness and the will of the associated labour. It is developed in manufacture, which cuts down the labourer into a detail labourer. It is completed in modern industry, which makes science a productive force distinct from labour and presses it into the service of capital (capital, 1,355).

(b) The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science into its paid wage labourers (Communist Manifesto, Collected Works, VI, 487).

(6) On the distinction between science and cooperative labor:

It should be noted that there is a difference between universal labour and co-operative labour…Universal labour is scientific labour, such as discoveries and inventions. This labour, such as discoveries and inventions. This labour is conditioned on the cooperation of living fellow-beings and on the labours of those who have gone before. Co-operative labour, on the other hand, is a direct co-operation of living individuals (Capital, III, 124).

(7) On the relations of nature, science, and industry:

…historiography pays regard to natural science only occasionally, as a factor of enlightenment, utility, and of some special great discoveries. But natural science has invaded and transformed human life all the more practically through the medium of industry; and has prepared human emancipation, although its immediate effect had to be the furthering of the de-humanization of man. Industry is the actual, historical relationship of nature, and therefore of natural science, to man…. In consequence, natural science will lose its abstractly material–or rather, its idealistic–tendency, and will become the basis of human science, as it has already become the basis of actual human life, albeit, in an estranged form. One basis for life and another basis for science is a priori a lie. The nature which develops in human history–the genesis of human society–is man’s real hence nature as it develops through industry, even though in an estranged form, is the true nature (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, 142–143).

Marx early recognized that, like prejudices and religious beliefs, ideas too have their social functions and determinants–and not least scientific ideas, even those of the most confirmed and objectively established sort. Thus, he was an admirer of Charles Darwin’s work, which he saw as a penetrating insight and proof of the historical character of biological nature. But he also noted, with amusement, that Darwin’s hypothesis saw nature in a social image:

(8) (a)…Darwin’s book is very important and serves me as a natural-scientific basis for the class struggle in history. One has to put up with the crude English method of development, of course. Despite all deficiencies, not only is the death-blow dealt here for the first time to “teleology” in the natural sciences but its rational meaning is empirically explained…(letter to Lassalle, 16 Jan. 1861, Selected Correspondence, Moscow ed., 151).

(b) It is remarkable how Darwin recognizes among beasts and plants his English society with its division of labour, competition, opening up of new markets, “inventions”, and the Malthusian“struggle for existence”. It is Hobbes’s bellum omnium contra omnes, and one is reminded of Hegel’s Phenomenology, where civil society is described as a “spiritual animal kingdom”, while in Darwin the animal kingdom figures as civil society…(letter to Engels, 18 June 1862, Seclected Correspondence, 156–157).

But Marx also saw Darwin’s work as suggestive for human history, and for the instrumental role of the human body, of technology, and of science:

(c) Darwin has interested us in the history of Nature’s Technology i.e., in the formation of the organs of plants and animals, which organs serve as instruments of production for sustaining life. Does not the history of the productive organs of man, of organs that are the material basis of all social organization, deserve equal attention? And would not such a history be easier to compile, since as Vico says, human history differs from natural history in this, that we have made the former, but not the latter? (Capital, 1,367).

To Marx, sociological understanding of the origin of scientific ideas was a component of the total appreciation of science. Two further aspects of his thought relate to such a historical sociology of science: the instrumental aspect of science, and of all knowledge, and the flexibility of nature when confronted with humankind. Here Marx consistently treated science under the general heading of labor, and he understood scientific conceptions to be joined with the material basis of human existence, with practical life, and with the social relations among human beings. The previous passage continues:

(d) Technology discloses man’s mode of dealing with Nature, the process of production by which he sustains his life, and thereby also lays bare the mode of formation of his social relations, and of the mental conceptions that flow from them….[But the] weak points in the abstract materialism of natural science, a materialism that excludes history and its process, are at once evident from the abstract and ideological conceptions of it spokesmen, whenever they venture beyond the bounds of their own speciality (Capital, 1, 367).

Marx saw that capital “first creates bourgeois society and [with it] the universal appropriation of nature….” Nature takes an instrumental role in human history.

(9) For the first time, nature becomes purely an object for humankind, purely a matter of utility; ceases to be recognized as a power for itself; and the theoretical discovery of its autonomous laws appears merely as a ruse so as to subjugate it under human needs, whether as an object of consumption or as a means of production (Grundrisse, 410).

Such an attitude toward technology and science leads to Marx’s notion of freedom, in the now familiar Marxian theme of reversing the domination of human beings either by the “blind” forces of nature or by the industrial society with its technology. It is technology that is the fundamental, because it is the mediation between man and nature:

(10)The realization of freedom consists in socialized man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their material interchange with nature and bringing it under their common control, instead of allowing it to rule them as a blind force (Capital, III, Chicago ed., 954).

This too leads beyond craft technology to science with the impressive modification of human life, which is made possible by the cognitive achievement of science when, and if, it is, in Marx’s term, “appropriated”:

(11) In this transformation, it is neither the direct human labour he himself performs, nor the time during which he works, but rather the appropriation of his own universal [scientific] productive power, his understanding of nature and his mastery over it by virtue of his presence as a social body–it is, in a word, the development of the social individual which appears as the great foundation-stone of production and of wealth (Grundrisse, 705, slightly modified).

To understand the “societal individual” is to understand Marx’s theory of society. Here we cannot pursue the main body of Marx’s work; but we must indicate his own method, which is also his conception of scientific explanation and scientific inquiry.

Scientific Method. Research into Marx’s methods of scientific thought and investigation, both as shown in his works and as deliberately expounded by him, has reached no general scholarly agreement. The principal explicit texts on method in Marx’s writings are section 3,“The Method of Political Economy,”of the introduction to his Grundrisse; Notes on Adolph Wagner: the preface to the second edition of Capital; section 2 of The Holy Family; and the preface to Critique of Political Economy.

Engels often praised Marx’s method, even above Marx’s achievements, which were said to have been due to it. In a letter of 1895 to Werner Sombart, Engels wrote:“Marx’s whole manner of conceiving things is not a doctrine, but a method. It offers no finished dogmas, but rather points of reference for further research, and the method of that research…”In the several methodological texts, and from his first writings to the last, Marx consciously worked on methodological problems, explicitly and repeatedly developing his own views by criticizing Hegel for methodological (as well as other) inadequacies; frequently criticizing other economists, historians, philosophers, and political thinkers on grounds of scientific method; and , at the same time, elucidating his own understanding of the conceptual principles of sound scientific thinking. Although much is still disputed among Marxists and by other students of Marx’s works, some matters of substance and of conceptual vocabulary seem clear from the relevant texts.

In the preface to the second edition of Capital, Marx quoted at length from a Russian article that treated his method in Capital in what Marx said was“this striking and generous way”:

(12) (a)“The one thing which is of moment to Marx, is to find the law of the phenomena…[and] the law of their variation, of their development, i.e., of their transition from one form into another…Marx only troubles himself about one thing; to show, by rigid scientific investigation, the necessity of successive determinate orders of social conditions, and to establish, as impartially as possible, the facts that serve him for fundamental starting points [and] both the necessity of the present order of things, and the necessity of another order into which the first must inevitably pass over…Marx treats the social movement as a process of natural history, governed by laws not only independent of human will, consciousness and intelligence, but rather, on the contrary, determining that will, consciousness and intelligence…not the idea, but the material phenomenon alone can serve as its starting-point. Such an inquiry will confine itself to the confrontation and the comparison of a fact, not with ideas, but with another fact. For this inquiry, the one thing of importance is both that facts be investigated as accurately as possible, and that they actually form, each with respect to the other, different moments of an evolution…it will be said, the general laws of economic life are one and the same, no matter whether they are applied to the present or the past. This Marx directly denies. According to him, such abstract laws do not exist. On the contrary, in his opinion every historical period has laws of its own….In a word, economic life offers us a phenomenon analogous to the history of evolution in other branches of biology. The old economists misunderstood the nature of economic laws when they likened them to the laws of physics and chemistry…” (Capital, 1, xxvii-xxix).

To this, Marx adds:

(12) (b)…what else is he picturing but the dialectic method? Of course the method of presentation must differ in form from that of inquiry. The latter has to appropriate the material in detail, to analyse its different forms of development, to trace out their inner connection. Only after this work is done, can the actual movement be adequately described. If this is done successfully, if the life of the subject-matter is ideally reflected as in a mirror, then it may appear as if we had before us a mere a priori construction (Capital, I,xxix-xxx).

Marx distinguishes the method of inquiry from the method of exposition. Inquiry (Forschung) is factually realistic, beginning with initially uninterpreted data that are subjected to analysis in stages of complexity that demand insightful abstraction, simplification, and subtlety. The factual data (Tatsache) are the concrete entities, or wholes; and the results of analysis are abstract principles, analyzed into theoretically formulated “parts,” hypothetically guided by theories that have been based upon, and more or less tested by, previous empirical investigations. Inquiry is a complex stage of empiricism and of inductive and hypothetical analysis.

Presentation (Darstellung) gives the results their necessary development, which aims to be a conceptual return to the concrete and brings the component parts or qualities of any subject matter together in their “organic” interrelatedness and their evolutionary or historical movements. The return will be mediated by expository as well as theoretical demands so as to clarify the separate qualities and the various relations among them and with their environment. For Marx, the truth will be the whole in its changes; and these in turn relate by historical processes, the Marxian dialectic of contending and negating “forces” within history. Indeed, the negative quality of historical changes links up, for Marx, with his positive notion of liberation of unfulfilled and repressed (alienated) human nature. (We shall see below how this may also comprehend nature.)

Volume I of Capital presents a theoretical model of the process of production in capitalism that, like so many models in natural science, isolates the theoretically conceived key qualities by means of simplifying assumptions. For Marx, abstraction was a justified but contrary-to-fact simplification. As he understood the problem of knowledge, scientific thought must be completed by a careful conceptual process of synthesis, by removal of the assumptions stage by stage, and by asymptotic approximation to the concrete complexity of the real world. The abstract model of Marx’s volume I was brought closer to the actual economic process of nineteenth-century capitalism, as he hoped, with his series of realistic considerations in volume III.

Abstraction is characteristic of all science but, for Marx, it has a central place in scientific investigation of social phenomena. Furthermore, abstraction is the method of discovering the “inner connections” and “inner movements” of the phenomena; Marx remarked that “all science would be superfluous if the manifest form and the essence of things directly coincided” (Capital, III, 797). In his preface to the first edition of Capital, Marx wrote:

…the body, as an organic whole, is more easy of study than are the cells of that body. In the analysis of economic forms, moreover, neither microscopes nor chemical reagents are of use. The force of abstraction must replace both. But in bourgeois society the commodity-form of the product of labour–or the value form of the commodity–is the economic cell-form (Capital, I, xvi).

Investigation, then, is empirical but also abstract; exposition is dialectical and concrete. Truth in science is concrete. And, as we shall see, Marx was not an inductivist. But while the scientist starts with abstract categories (of thought), he must go from these to the concrete, for the elementary and simple abstraction, although not fictitious, is only one aspect of any object of investigation, and an aspect in relation to man. To go further requires the human side and, hence, the social relations among the categories. Marx’s mature methodological reflections on this dialectic of abstract and concrete moments of scientific practice were most fully set forth in the 1857 introduction to the Grundrisse:

(13) It seems to be correct to begin with the real and the concrete, with the real precondition, thus to begin, in economics, with e.g. the population, which is the foundation and the subject of the entire social act of production. However, on closer examination this proves false. The population is an abstraction if I leave out, for example, the classes of which it is composed. These classes in turn are an empty phrase if I am not familiar with the elements on which they rest, e.g. wage labour capital, etc. These latter in turn presuppose exchange, division of labour, prices, etc. For example, capital is nothing without wage labour, without value, money, price, etc. Thus, if I were to begin with the population, this would be a chaotic representation [Vorstellung] of the whole, and I would then, by means of further determination, move analytically towards ever more simple concepts [Begriff], from the imagined concrete towards ever thinner abstractions until I had arrived at the simplest determinations. From there the journey would have to be retraced until I had finally arrived at the population again, but this time not as the chaotic conception of a whole, but as a rich totality of many determinations and relations.

…[This] is obviously the scientifically correct method. The concrete is concrete because it is the concentration of many [abstract] determinations, hence a unity of the diverse. It appears in the process of thinking, therefore, as a process of concentration, as a result, not as a point of departure, even though it is the point of departure in reality and hence also the point of departure for observation [Anschauung] and conception. Along the first path the full conception was evaporated to yield an abstract determination; along the second, the abstract determinations lead towards a reproduction of the concrete by way of thought.

… it may be said that the simpler category can express the dominant relations of a less developed whole, or else those relations subordinate to a more developed whole which already had a historic existence before this whole developed in the direction expressed by a more concrete category. To that extent the path of abstract thought, rising from the simple to the combined, would correspond to the real historical process.

As a rule, the more general abstractions arise only in the midst of the richest possible concrete development, where one thing appears as common to many, to all. Then it ceases to be thinkable in a particular form alone…

This example of labour shows strikingly how even the most abstract categories, despite their validity precisely because of their abstractness-for all epochs, are nevertheless, in the specific character of this abstraction, themselves likewise a product of historic relations, and possess their full validity only for and within these relations.…

It would be unfeasible and wrong to let the economic categories follow one another in the same sequence as that in which they were historically decisive. Their sequence is determined, rather, by their relation to one another in modern bourgeois society, which is precisely the opposite of that which seems to be their natural order or which corresponds to historical development. The point is not the historic position of the economic relations in the succession of different forms of society. Even less is it their sequence “in the idea”(Proudhon) (a muddy notion of historic movement). Rather, their order within modern bourgeois society (Grundrisse, 100-108).

To Marx, exposition and articulation, when carefully accomplished, showed the movement of thought, a conceptual dynamic. He was concerned to contrast his understanding of this dialectic with that of Hegel, for whom

(14)… the life-process of the human brain, i.e., the process of thinking, under the name of “the Idea”, he even transforms into anindependent subject, [as] the demiurge of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of “the Idea” With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought (Capital, I,xxx).

For Marx, the concrete-in-thought was real and concrete enough, insofar as thoughts are real, but in no way was it to be considered as the genuine thing, as abstractions that somehow were formed into concrete matters of nature or society. Indeed, Marx focused his methodological criticism of Hegel in 1857 on this point:

(15) In this way Hegel fell into the illusion of conceiving the real as the product of thought concentrating itself [sich zusammenfassenden Denkens] probing its own depths, and unfolding itself out of itself, by itself, whereas the method of rising from the abstract to the concrete is only the way in which thought appropriates the concrete, reproduces it as the concrete in the mind. But this is by no means the process by which the concrete itself comes into being…the concrete totality is…a product…of the working up [Verarbeitung] of observation and conceptual representation into concepts [Begriffe]. The totality as it appears in the head, as a totality of thoughts, is a product of a thinking head, which appropriates the world in the only way it can, a way different from the artistic, religious, practical and mental appropriation of this world. The real subject-matter ratains its autonomous existence outside the head just as before: namely as long as the head’s conduct is merely speculative, merely theoretical. Hence, in the theoretical method, too, the subject, society, must always be kept in mind as the presupposition (Grundrisse, 101–102).

Marx’s empirical side had earlier been pressed against ‘Hegel in 1843 in the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’:

(16) Thus empirical actuality is admitted just as it is and is also said to be rational: but not rational because of its own reason, but because the empirical fact in its empirical existence has a significance [for Hegel] which is other than it itself. The fact, which is the starting point, is not conceived to be such but rather to be the mystical result.

It is evident that the true method is turned upside down. What is most simple is made most complex and vice versa. What should be the point of departure [of the presentation] becomes the mystical result, and what should be the rational result becomes the mystical point of departure (O’Malley ed., 9, 40).

The issue appears thirty years later in the 1873 preface, once more in Marx’s well-known image:

(17)…With him [dialectic] is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell (Capital, 1, xxx).

Perhaps the most explicit contrast, in Marx’s own estimation, was stated in the unpublished notes for The German Ideology:

(18) First Premises of Materialist Method.

The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their activity. These premises can thus be verified in a purely empirical way…

Empirical observation must in each separate instance bring out empirically, and without any mystification and speculation, the connection of the social and political structure with production…

This method of approach is not devoid of premises…Its premises are men, not in any fantastic isolation and rigidity, but in their actual, empirically perceptible process of development under definite conditions.…

When reality is depicted, philosophy as an independent branch of knowledge loses its medium of existence. At the best its place can only be taken by a summing-up of the most general results, derived through abstractions which arise from the observation of the historical development of men. Vieweda part from real history, these abstractions have in themselves no value whatsoever. They can only serve to facilitate the arrangement of historical material, to indicate the sequence of its separate strata. But they by no means afford a recipe or schema, as does philosophy, for neatly trimming the epochs of history.… (German Ideology, 42,46–48).

Marx and Nature. By “nature” Marx meant the natural world of the nonliving, and the living, in which the human-social world was situated; but he also meant to include mankind within that natural world, as a species among the mammals, an animal among animals, a living being among all the forms of life, and a material entity of matter and energy, existing in the forms of space and time. In the profound but compressed manuscripts of 1844, Marx set forth his theme of understanding nature as that of understanding the relation between man and nature, between historical man and the external environment. But the environment comprises both the existing situation within which mankind exists, and as such relates to his species history, and also the autonomous world, temporally prior to mankind. What is this human-natural relation? In the long human history of recurring and potential scarcity, man has mainly struggled with nature. Whatever the cognitive forms–whether magical, technological, scientific, or otherwise–human interaction with nature has had domination as its goal. Even when the mode has been one of alliance or harmony with nature, nature has set the conditions and limits; and when the mode is one of successes in conquest, transformation, using and exploiting nature and natural processes, the transformations of nature by human labor (and its allied intelligence) nevertheless must be seen against the inexhaustible properties and impenetrable levels of resistance of matter.

For Marx, man and nature have a history together; man encounters nature in his own species history, each encounter within a specific concrete stage of that history. Without doubt, for Marx, nature had its own history; but that was not so much his own view as one he thought increasingly demonstrated by the natural sciences themselves. For him this was evident from developments in geology, astronomy, and, above all, evolutionary biology. And yet there was also a peculiarly Marxian understanding of nature that had two further aspects.

First, Marx stressed the insight that ideas of nature have their own history, which is a part of general human cultural history, itself a creative product of the material processes of society (and hence Marx’s apercu is a principal stimulant to later sociology of knowledge, and of scientific ideas in particular). Such a historical sociology of science reworked the ancient relativism about varying human perceptions of nature from skepticism about knowledge of nature to the (social-scientific) cognitive problem of the history of that knowledge. In the Marxian reconstruction of relativism it remains a difficult research question to locate the sources of success and failure of different approaches to nature, to ascertain the cognitive thread within human practice (and especially among the differing modes of cognitive practice that are revealed by studies in the history of the natural sciences and technologies). In the end, Marx believed practice was always the criterion, but practice is complex. At least, Marx saw, external nature was receptive to human labor, if not ever exactly a simple metaphorical raw and unformed clay to be shaped by the human potter. What was necessary in human development, he also saw, was for man to learn both the facts of natural entities, processes, tendencies, and laws, and the alternative possibilities to which those facts may be understood (with difficulty) as pointing. Here he thought he went beyond the “mere” empiricism of positive science.

In the latter sense, Marx understood the literal role of man within nature as concretely formative; men and women are fully natural beings who seek, choose, and remake the natural world, within the necessary limits. Man is child and maker of nature. Man the maker, for Marx, is even greater than his hero Prometheus, the conqueror of fire and liberator of mankind, because man creates new natural events, materials, qualities-indeed, creates a new nature.

The materialist history of ideas of nature is a history of changing intentional practice, for which implicit as well as explicit ideas have their several functions: cognition, rote aids to learning, conjectures to be tested and often to be generalized. All of this is articulated by means of the developing languages of collaborating scientific workers who are also ideological representatives of class and sectional interests (including interests in the concrete facts, in the truths of those facts and of what they suggest or conceal-or, at any rate, in some partial truths). Ideas of nature, and scientific theories as their modern form, were for Marx a part of the labor process, theoretical practice. To Marx, Hegel had investigated nature only through his logic, vainly seeking a concrete content; orthodox science investigated nature through observation and hypothesis, seeking autonomous laws; Marx investigated nature through man.

Second, at all human times, as nature is encountered historically, it must have its socially conditioned aspects and, increasingly, its socialized transformations. In its transition from the “natural” role of peasants in feudal agriculture to the “commodity” of man and natural processes in capitalist industry, nature changes. Nature has become, and now is, part of human history, which expands human nature so as to make over the external environment, at times, into the larger material body of individual men and of humanity. These metaphors were useful to Marx, to whom the flow of matter and energy between the body and the environment easily suggested that man is more than what his skin encloses, and for whom the social reality equally existed in such a mutual relationship with the natural context. Human bodily processes were natural, and so were social processes; Marx saw his most illuminating natural-science metaphor for social processes in“metabolism” (Stoffwechsel)

But the historical situation of nature was not seen by Marx as just metaphorical. Nature as known to concrete human beings is nature as it has been both dominated and understood; for nature to be under stood by ideas of nature means nature’s being subjected to the specific criteria and requirements of societies the dominant class forces of which have also dominated their forms of rationality. For Marx, while “prior” nature produces the human species in the course of biological, geological, and chemical processes, yet there are historical stages of nature, known to historians of science and technology by periods in the history of the natural sciences; and these, he anticipated, may be linked with the stages of evolution of social-economic formation. It is not too much to say, then, that there is a nature known to feudal society, and a different nature known to capitalist society; different societies raise different questions, work on different problems, use different ideas and methods, labor in different ways, learn differently, generalize differently, and reason differently. (When Marx wrote [see excerpt (5), above] that science is “pressed into the service of capital,” he did not refer to applied science alone.)

Marx’s early image of man in nature was that man appropriates nature, thereby bringing human purposes into nature. But which human purposes? Marx did not hesitate to link closely human appropriation and exploitation of nature with human exploitation of human beings. If men are treated as things, so will nature be; if human labor becomes the center of exploitation, and then is abstracted into average values for exchange in a commodity society–in a word, commercialized–then commercialized nature will appear (where it had not been); if men are distorted and polluted, then a polluted nature will be made. Marx’s conception of social tendencies toward the emancipation of mankind from human exploitation was explicit about his grounding of human liberation in a changing relationship with nature. Just as the emancipation of man requires emancipation from necessary labor (or at least minimization, as sketched in Capital, III), so it implies an open attitude on Marx’s part toward changes in ideas of nature when the relation of man to man is no longer dominated by exploitation.

In bourgeois industrial society, and always in class societies, Marx saw nature as a limiting and resisting material that had increasingly become a productive force; or if nature itself is not literally a productive force, then the social metaphor may be shifted and nature comes to function as abstract matter, to be made, administered, and exploited as men wish, and as abstractly as the labor power of the working men. In the expected future classless society, which Marx in the Grundrisse foresaw to be characterized by fully automated and nearly labor-free factory productive processes, human nature may once again see its (new) rationality within nature. That is, if human purpose transcends mere domination, then it may transcend that purpose with respect to external nature too; and nature again would be receptive.

Marx did not pursue the matter of nonexploited nature further, with the singular but crucial exception of the changes in human nature as part of the natural order. Any speculation or development of his suggestions is beyond our concern here, but at least his discussions of the bodily base for aesthetic sensibility may be mentioned. He linked liberation from domination by the social relations of private property to “the complete emancipation of all human senses and qualities” (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, 139): indeed, the liberated human being in socialist society, the seemingly quite new man, would be one whose “senses are other than those of non-socialized man.” For, he argued, “…not only the five senses but also the so-called mental senses-the practical senses (will, love, etc.)-in a word, human sense-the human nature of the senses-comes to be by virtue of its object, by virtue of humanized nature. The forming of the five senses is a labor of the entire history of the world down to the present” (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, 141).

At any rate, postcapitalist (or, in general terms, postexploitative) nature-for-man would be that part of the universe that is transformed into an environmental context within which the specifically human qualities and faculties will develop and flourish. Marx saw nature, and with it human nature, as flexible, plastic, and, above all, not restricted to a utilitarian function. He went so far as to say that the human senses would “relate themselves to the thing for the sake of the thing…” but he went on at once to add that “the thing itself is an objective human relation to itself and to man and vice versa…nature has lost its mere utility by use becoming human use” (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, 139). These processes of humanization and socialization of natural objects are precise: “The eye has become a human eye, just as its object has become a social, human object-an object made by man for man.” And so sensuous human nature, along with all social-historically related external nature, changes as society does; Marx wrote: “The social reality of nature, and human natural sciences, or the natural science about man, are identical terms.”

The lesson was completely socialized. A repressive, exploitative society would be expected to produce a dehumanized nature, because the actual known world of science, technology, and their society is a world of things that, in Marx’s understanding of political economy, are actually or potentially objectified human labor. Through labor, the primary category of both his philosophy and his social science, we are brought to comprehend Marx’s natural science. Man makes himself, following Hegel’s famous phrase; but man also makes his natural world, for, as Marx said, nature is man’s inorganic body.

(19)…just as the working subject appears naturally as an individual, having a natural existence, so does the first objective condition of his labor appear as nature, as earth, as his inorganic body. The individual himself is not only the organic body of nature but also the Subject of this inorganic nature (Crundrisse,488).

In critical discussion of the destructive use of natural resources, Marx was looking ahead to a nondestructive relationship with nature, which equally would be the work of human labor; praxis, he believed, had the potentiality of treating human beings as human and, at the same time, of accepting both the potentialities and the limitations of nature. Within those potentialities, a fully human home on earth could be designed and constructed. in light of scientific understanding of the fullest range of human potentialities and those of external nature.

Marx took his idea of socialized nature cautiously. The limitations placed by autonomous nature are genuine, for, as mentioned above, Marx agreed with Giambattista Vico that human beings have made human history, but not natural history. The problem that arises, then, for Marx in his conception of nature can be clarified by his method of investigation: Nature in its autonomy, prior to human history and apart from that history, is, as one commentator remarked, only on the horizon of history. Nature has its own history, and yet it both generates and yields to the human species with its characteristically concrete history. Autonomous nature, then, is-and can be-only abstract for mankind because it has been apprehended neither by ordinary practice nor by any cognition through scientific practice. “…nature, taken abstractly, for itself, rigidly separated from man, is nothing for man” (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, 117, Bottomore ed.).

There must be concrete nature rather than an artificial abstraction; but this shift to the concrete, as we have seen, is what Marx understands to be nature appropriated, exploited–indeed, mediated by socially organized labor. In 1880, toward the end of his life, Marx wrote: “Only a schoolmaster–professor [could construe] the relations of man to nature as not practical from the outset, that is relations established by action, but as theoretical relations…” (Notes on Adolph Wagner, 190). He went on to clarify: Not first the epistemological relation of scientific practice but, rather, first the socially primary relation of “appropriating certain things of the external world as the means for satisfying their own needs, etc.” and by “thus satisfying their needs, therefore they begin with production.” Intellectual practice–indeed, all learning from experience and reflecting upon experience in theoretical practice comes after the fundamental base within material production.

The common-sense Marx prevailed, even while he analyzed socialized nature and speculated upon liberated nature. In The German Ideology he wrote:

(20).…of course, in all of this, the priority of external nature remains unassailed…but this differentiation [between autonomous or presocial, and socially mediated, nature] has meaning only insofar as man is considered to be distinct from nature.

Marx goes on at once, in this comment on Feuerbach:

For that matter, nature, the nature that preceded human history…is nature which today no longer exists anywhere (except perhaps on a few Australian coral-islands of recent origin) and which, therefore, does not exist for Feuerbach (German Ideology, 63).

And yet, as we know from Marx’s sociological comment on Darwin’s work, any thought of nature before mankind, or of nature insofar as it is not yet known or appropriated, must, for Marx, be comprehended through the very same socially generated categories as the concretely grasped nature of ordinary labor and scientific practice. And even the autonomous qualities are suspected of being human-with cunning, as Hegel might have said (see excerpt [9] above).

If nature provides the metabolic biochemistry for man in society as in physiology, the metaphor deserves a further caution, since Marx understood that metabolism too has its autonomous properties and laws. Hence, “Man can only proceed in his production in the same way as nature itself, that is he can only alter the forms of the material” (Capital, 10). But these alterations affect nature too; Marx simply sees man as an agent of nature transforming itself. He speaks of labor power as a “material of nature transferred to a human organism” ; and he also sees quickly, in Capital, that the very simile of changing the forms of a kind of raw, unformed substance must be otherwise understood: “The object of labour can only become raw material when it has already undergone a change mediated through labour.” And yet it is nature that actually participates in such mediation through the emergence of the human species, which brings practical, creative, transformative labor into nature.

(21) Labour is, in the first place, a process in which both man and nature participate, and in which man of his own accord starts, regulates, and controls the material reactions between himself and Nature. He opposes himself to Nature as one of her own force…(Capital, I, ch. 7, 156).


I. Original Works. The current standard ed. of the known published and unpublished writings of Marx and Engels in Marx-Engels Werke, 39 vols. plus index (Berlin, 1957–1968), which includes early works from student days, speeches and newspaper articles, and the correspondence with each other and with third parties. Supplementary vols. appeared in 1967 and 1969. There are two Russian-language eds. of the complete works, the Sochinenia, 25 vols.(Moscow, 1928–1946), and a 2nd, rev. ed. (Moscow, 1955-): a complete Oeuvres in French is under way (Paris, 1963-): and the Collected Works are in progress in English, 50 vols. plus an index vol. (New York-London-Moscow. 1974-). M. Rubel, Bibliographie des oeuvres de Karl Marx (Paris, 1956), is immensely helpful: it includes “Repertoire des oeuvres de Friedrich Engels” as an appendix: a supp. appeared later (Paris, 1960).

Also see M. Klein et al., Marx-Engels-Verzeichnis: Werke, Schriften, Artikel (Berlin, 1968). An earlier collected ed., the Karl Marx-Friedrich Engels: Historischkritische Gesamtausgabe, 11 vols. (Frankfurt-Berlin: Moscow, 1927–1935), commonly referred to as MEGA went only as far as 1848. Despite its limited scope, it was significant and influential as the first publication of major early writings of Marx and Engels and for the bulk of the correspondence between them. A guide to the various collected eds. is G. Hertel, Inhaltsvergleichregister der Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgaben (Berlin, 1957). As noted in these various eds. and guides, many of Marx’s works were first published decades after his death: the historically influential writings must be seen in that respect.

The principal centers of research in the original materials are the Institut fur Marxismus-Leninismus (Berlin). the Institute of Marxism-Leninism (Moscow), and the International Institute for Social History (Amsterdam). A practical introduction to the Amsterdam holdings is the Alphabetical Catalog of the Books and Pamphlets of the International Institute of Social History, 12 vols. (Boston, 1970); 2-vol. supp. (Boston, 1975). An annotated variorum scholarly ed. of the complete writings, speeches, notebooks, and correspondence of Marx and Engels is in preparation at the Berlin institute. A preliminary but useful specimen volume is Karl Marx-Friedrich Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA), Editionsgrundsätze und Probestucke (Berlin, 1972). Publication of this new MEGA began in 1975.

A chronological list of Marx’s principal works, as well as those written in collaboration with Engels. includes the following. The date of composition is indicated in parentheses.

“The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophies of Nature,” Ph. D. diss. (1841); Critique of Hegel’s ’Philosophy of Right’ (1843); On the Jewish Question (1843); Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844; The Holy Family (1844), written with Engels; Theses on Feuerbach (1845); The German Ideology (1845–1846), written with Engels; The Poverty of Philosophy (1847); Manifesto of the Communist Party (18480), written with Engels; The Class Struggles in France, 1848–1850 (1850; The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852): Grundrisse (Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy-Rough Draft) (1857–1858); A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1858–1859); Wages, Price and Profit (1865); Capital, written over many years; I was published in 1867; II and III were posthumously edited by Engels and published in 1885 and 1894: IV, Theories of Surplus Value, appeared in three parts, 1905–1910, and was edited by K. Kautsky; The Civil War in France (1871): Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875); and Notes on Adolph Wagner (1879–1880), unfinished critique of a textbook on political economy.

II. Secondary Literature. The literature Marx and his work seems endless. Of interest are the biographies, with differing viewpoints, by Franz Mehring (long a standard), Isaiah Berlin, Otto Rühle, Werner Blumenberg, H. Gemkow, David Riazanov, David McLellan, M. Rubel, and the exhaustive joint biographical studies of Marx and Engels by Auguste Cornu (treating only 1818–1846 in 3 vols. thus far). A detailed chronicle of Marx’s life, keyed to the current Werke ed., is M. Rubel, Marx-Chronik: Daten zu Leben und Werk (Munich, 1968), rev. trans. of the French original in Karl Marx, Oeuvres, Économie, I (Paris, 1965). A useful detailed chronological study of Marx’s life, with full précis of all his works, is given by M. Rubel in Marx Without Myth (Oxford-New York, 1975), written with M. Manale.

The topics that might be listed under “Marx and science” range throughout the entire Marx literature, for “science” in his case must include the various social sciences (not excluding historical studies) and their methodologies, along with the natural sciences, mathematics, logic, engineering, and the relevant portions of philosophy (including philosophy of science, metaphysics, and epistemology) as well as their histories. Thus, Marx’s methodology in Capital has been examined and interpreted; his relationship to Kant, to Spinoza, and to J. S. Mill; aspects of his critique and development of Hegel’s thought; his response to Darwin; his sociological and historical understanding of religions; and so on. The following list (see also “Engels” in the DSB) includes some works that bear upon Marx’s own understanding of nature, natural science, technology, methodology, and epistemology.

L. Althusser, For Marx (London-New York, 1969), translated from the French ed. (Paris, 1965): L. Althusser and E. Balibar, Reading Capital (London, 1970), translated from the French ed. (Paris, 1968); J. D. Bernal, Science in History (London, 1954; Cambridge, Mass., 1971); and The Freedom of Necessity (London, 1955); T. Carver, ed., and trans., Texts on Method of Karl Marx (Oxford, 1975), annotated texts of the introduction to the Grundrisse and the Notes on Adolph Wagner; J. Fallot, Marx et le machinisme (Paris, 1966); E. V. Ilyenkov, The Dialectic of Abstract and Concrete in Marx’s ’Capital’ (Moscow, 1960), in Russian-the third and central chapter is available in German in Beiträge zur marxistischen Erkenntnistheorie, A. Schmidt, ed. (Frankfurt, 1969), 87–127; in French in Recherches internationales (1968), 98–158; and in a complete Italian ed.; G. Lukacs, Zur Ontologie des gesellschaftlichen Seins: Die ontologischen Grundprinzipien von Marx (Frankfurt, 1972), a methodological study; H. Marcuse, Reason and Revolution (New York, 1941); S. Moscovici, Essai sur I’histoire humaine de la nature (Paris, 1968); B. Ollman, Alienation (Cambridge-New York, 1971); and M. Raphael, Theorie des geistigen Schaffens auf marxisticher Grundlage (Frankfurt, 1974), rev. ed. of Erkenntnistheorie der konkreten Dialektik (Paris, 1934)-available in English as vol. XLI of Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science (Boston-Dordrecht, 1978).

Also see R. Rosdolsky, Zur Entstehungsgeschichte des Marxschen ’Kapital’, 2 vols. (Frankfurt-Vienna, 1968), also in English (London, forthcoming 1978); N. Rosenberg, “Karl Marx on the Economic Role of Science,” in Journal of Political Economy,84 (1974), 713–728; “Science, Invention and Economic Growth,” ibid., 90–108, both in Rosenberg, Perspectives on Technology (Cambridge-New York, 1976); and “Marx as a Student of Technology,” in Monthly Review,28 (1976), 56–77; A. Schmidt, Der Begriff der Natur in der Lehre von Marx (Vienna, 1962; rev. ed., Frankfurt. ed., Frankfurt, 1971); also in English (London, 1971); A. Schmidt, Beiträge zur marxistischen Erkenntnistheorie (Frankfurt, 1969), esp. G. Markus, “Uber die erkenntnistheoretischen Ansichten des jungen Marx” J. Zelency, “Zum Wissenschaftsbegiff des dialektischen Materialismus” and E. V. Ilyenkov (cited above); P. Thomas. “Marx and Science,” in Political Studies,24 (1976), 1–23; R. C. Tucker, Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx (Cambridge, 1961); and J. Zelency, Die Wissenschaftslogik bie Marx und ’Das Kapital’ (Berlin, 1968), trans. and rev. from the Czech ed. (Prague, 1962).

See the coordinate article on Friedrich Engels in this volume of the Dictionary.

Robert S. Cohen

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Marx, Karl

Marx, Karl

Contributions to socialist thought

Marx’s influence





Karl Marx (1818-1883) was born in Trier in the Prussian Rhineland. His alienation from his family when he had scarcely passed adolescence foreshadowed the social isolation of his later years.

His father, a lawyer, was as concerned as he was impressed with his son’s “demonic genius,” as he called it, and feared that young Marx’s passion for poetry and philosophy would consume him both physically and morally. The elder Marx and his wife were Jewish, but for social reasons they were converted to Christianity. The younger Marx’s awareness of his ethnic background aroused in him a certain self-consciousness; this may have been one source of his sense of marginality, his ambivalence toward society, and eventually of his conflicting qualities—thinker and prophet, scientist and moralist.

Although Marx received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Jena at the age of 23, his association with the Young Hegelians, and with Bruno Bauer in particular, precluded his appointment to a university position in Germany; indeed, Bauer lost his own post at the university in Bonn as a result of questioning the historicity of the New Testament. Marx thus became a “degraded bourgeois,” deprived of a stable source of income and dependent for his livelihood and that of his wife and children on the generosity of his lifelong friend, Friedrich Engels, the son of a wealthy cotton manufacturer. (Marx’s wife, Jenny von Westphalen, was of noble parentage but had no dowry.) At the age of 25, Marx left Germany and, except for a brief stay in Cologne in 1848-1849, lived the rest of his life in exile: in Paris from 1843 to 1845, in Brussels from 1845 to 1848, and finally in London. As early as 1845 he renounced his Prussian citizenship, and since he failed to acquire British citizenship by naturalization, for the greater part of his life he was something of a pariah.

Intellectual background. Marx’s childhood and youth fall in that period of European history when the reactionary powers of the Holy Alliance were attempting to eradicate from post-Napoleonic Europe all traces of the French Revolution. There was, at the same time, a liberal movement in Germany that was making itself felt. The movement was given impetus by the July Revolution in France, and its chief representatives were the poets of the Junge Deutschland, among them Ludwig Borne and Heinrich Heine. In the late 1830s a further step toward radical criticism was made by the Young Hegelians, that group with which Marx became formally associated when he was studying law and philosophy at the University of Berlin.

Although he was the youngest member of the Young Hegelians—who included, in addition to Bauer, such thinkers as Ludwig Feuerbach, Arnold Ruge, and Moses Hess—Marx inspired their confidence, respect, and even admiration. They saw in him a “new Hegel,” or rather a powerful anti Hegelian, who might successfully turn the dialectics of the master against his own conservative teachings in the fields of religion, politics, and law. Marx had already showed his determination to do so in his doctoral dissertation (1841), which dealt with the philosophical positions of Democritus and Epicurus; especially in the supplementary notes, he made his earliest attempt at a radical, albeit muted, criticism of Hegel, asserting, as Epicurus had argued against Democritus, that what is needed is a morally clear way of life rather than ideology or empty hypotheses.

The intensive study of Spinoza, Leibniz, and Hume provided Marx with a spiritual armory for the elaboration of a positive conception of democracy that went far beyond the notions held at that time by radicals in Germany. It was from Spinoza rather than from Hegel that Marx learned to reconcile necessity and freedom. Therefore, when he undertook to destroy Hegel’s metaphysics of “the State,” Marx was well prepared to integrate a rational ethics with his own sociological and revolutionary doctrine. His early rejection of Hegel’s political philosophy was unconditional and permanent; yet stripped of its “idealistic” content, Hegel’s dialectic continued to influence Marx as a way of analyzing his subject matter, namely society.

Marx’s adherence to a radical view of democracy was also based on the study of such historical events as the revolutions in England, France, and America. From these historical studies he concluded that democracy must normally and inevitably culminate in communism, following a transitory stage of proletarian democracy (the “dictatorship of the proletariat”). After his conversion to communism Marx began his prolonged studies of economics; but while he was still developing from a liberal into a communist, he learned more from Spinoza and Feuerbach, Saint-Simon and Babeuf, Thomas Hamilton and Tocqueville, Weitling and Proudhon, Owen and Fourier, than from Smith or Ricardo.

Contributions to socialist thought

Although the epoch to which Marx belonged has its beginnings in the French Revolution, its historical dimensions coincide with those of the whole era of indus-trial and social revolutions and extend into our own time; hence the lasting appeal of a body of teachings that is by no means free from theoretical ambiguities.

The originality of Marx’s thought lies in his immense efforts to synthesize, in a critical way, the entire legacy of social knowledge since Aristotle. His purpose was to achieve a better understanding of the conditions of human development and with this understanding to accelerate the actual process by which mankind was moving toward an “association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all” (1848). The desired system would be a communist society based on rational planning, cooperative production, and equality of distribution and, most important, liberated from all forms of political and bureaucratic hierarchy.

This dual commitment—to scholarly understanding and to political action—created constant difficulty for Marx. He was often aware that his intense passion for reading and studying interfered with his activity on behalf of the political movement with which he identified himself. In his scholarly work the exposition and analysis are frequently interrupted by partisan outbursts of irony and sarcasm, by bitter indictments of the capitalist class and the social system based upon its dominance.

Political economy was only one of the social-scientific disciplines that Marx intended to explore and then subject to criticism; the others were law, morals, and politics. He intended to treat each of these disciplines (and perhaps others also) in “separate pamphlets.” But the thoroughness with which he undertook his studies of the great economists and the delays in his scholarly work that arose from the need to make a living as a penny-a-liner prevented him from elaborating even one of these projects. Capital, subtitled “A Critique of Political Economy,” although a work of enormous dimensions, is the fruit of only partially completed research. However, before the age of thirty, Marx produced a number of works which together provide a relatively adequate outline of his “materialist conception of history.“Among these, the most important are The Holy Family (1845a), The German Ideology (in collaboration with Engels, 1845-1846), The Poverty of Philosophy (1847), and The Communist Manifesto (1848). To these must be added an unfinished work, first published in 1932 with the title Economic and Philosophical Manu-scripts of 1844 (see 1844a), which shows with particular clarity the connections between the various ideas Marx was later to elaborate in Capital.

In these works, Marx sketched out his theory of society and history. He repudiated Hegelian and post-Hegelian speculative philosophy, and building on Feuerbach’s anthropological naturalism, he developed instead a humanist ethics based on a strictly sociological approach to historical phenomena. Drawing also on French materialism and on British empiricism and classical economics, Marx’s theory sought to explain all social phenomena in terms of their place and function in the complex systems of society and nature, without recourse to what he considered metaphysical explanations (“primary causes”). Clearly outlined in these early writings, this eventually became a mature socio-logical conception of the making and development of human societies.

At the beginning of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), Marx summed up in a dozen aphorisms the general results of the investigation he had undertaken in the 1840s and asserted that these results were the “guiding thread” of his further studies. Here are the beginning and the end of this justifiably celebrated and controversial passage:

In the social production which men carry on they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material powers of production. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society—the real foundation, on which rise legal and political superstructures and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness. . . . In broad outlines we can designate the Asiatic, the ancient, the feudal, and the modern bourgeois methods of production as so many epochs in the progress of the economic formation of society. The bourgeois relations of production are the last antagonistic form of the social process of production . . . ; at the same time the production forces developing in the womb of bourgeois society create the material conditions for the solution of that antagonism. This social formation constitutes, therefore, the closing chapter of the prehistoric stage of human society. ([1859] 1913, pp. 11-13)

Marx’s “materialistic method” is well exemplified by his treatment of the concept of “alienation”—a spiritual concept in Hegel’s philosophy that had already been modified in Feuerbach’s anthropology. In the “Paris Manuscripts of 1844” (1844a), Marx conceived of alienation as a phenomenon related to the structure of those societies in which the producer is divorced from the means of production and in which “dead labor” (capital) dominates “living labor” (the worker). A systematic elaboration of the concept appears in Capital under the heading “fetishism of commodities and money.” But the ethical germ of this conception can be found as early as 1844 in the two essays Marx published in the Deutsch—französische Jahrbücher: “On the Jewish Question” (1844b) and “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right” (1844c). There Marx unequivocally rejected and condemned “the state” and “money,” and he invested the proletariat with the “historical mission” of emancipating society as a whole. The identity of Marx’s early political views with the theoretical analysis in Capital is evident in the manner in which the argument of Capital is brought to a close. Describing the “historical tendency of capital accumulation,” Marx quoted the prophetic statement in the Communist Manifesto: “What the bourgeoisie . . . produces, above all, are its own gravediggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.” Similarly, in ending the preamble of his inaugural address to the International Working Men’s Association (1864), Marx launched the same summons that ends the Manifesto: “Workingmen of all countries, unite!”

Although this summons seems to contradict his assertion of the “historical necessity” of communism, in the very real unity of sociology and ethics the contradiction vanishes. The proletariat is en-joined to unite in order to transform society, and its recognition of the consequences of such unity for the achievement of its historical mission becomes part of the “historical necessity” of the process; by this recognition, the proletariat confirms the process.

In accordance with the maxim, formulated in his “Theses on Feuerbach” (1845b), that man must prove the truth of his thinking in practice, Marx neglected his scientific work for long periods in order to participate in the class struggles of his time. He did so not without regret, for he considered his scholarly studies the most valuable form of participation in the social struggle. His more direct intervention was, of course, mainly literary in character—his several hundred articles in German, British, and American newspapers and journals; and the various addresses and manifestoes he wrote for the Working Men’s International. Among his writings on the political events of his time are some unquestionable masterpieces of this genre: The Class Struggles in France (1850); The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852); Secret Diplomatic History of the Eighteenth Century (1856); Herr Vogt (1860); “Address” to the First International (1864); The Civil War in France (1871); the Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875). In every line he wrote, whether intended for publication or not, his ultimate singleness of purpose is clearly evident.

This is particularly true of his magnum opus, Capital, whose scope transcends its outline of political economy as well as its critique of economics. At the same time that Marx defined the ultimate aim of the work as “[laying] bare the economic law of motion of modern society,” he had in mind a thorough and systematic criticism of a type of society, namely capitalism. In spite of its truncated character, Capital is monumental in its construction and grandiose in its purpose. It is in Capital (even more than in Marx’s philosophical writings) and particularly in the posthumously published Grundrisse (1857-1858), that the serious student will find the key to Marx’s dialectical method as it contrasts with the method of Hegel. Moreover, Capital, to a greater extent than Marx’s political writings, reveals the reason for the celebrated “failure” of Marxian predictions: the reason lies not so much in the inadequacy of Marx’s social and economic theory as in the expectations he based on it. However, in the last analysis these expectations rest on the individual search for perfection and liberty.

Marx’s influence

Marx’s teachings have been expanded and diffused in two ways that are, in effect, opposed to each other. The first is “Marxism” as an ideology, i.e., a dogmatic systematization of Marx’s ideas for political purposes, expressed as party doctrine or state religion, and disseminated by its supporters; the second form is a growing body of research and scholarly activity in various branches of the social sciences that has been illuminated by Marx’s theoretical discoveries. When Marx himself noticed that his admirers were showing the first signs of “Marxism,” he rebuked them unequivocally and asserted, as Engels reported in several letters (e.g., to Bernstein and Conrad Schmidt): “I am not a Marxist.” However, he tolerated and even supported Engels’ efforts to win acceptance for Capital in academic circles. Inadvertently, Engels thus became the first “Marxist” and the cofounder of the Marxist ideology, whose manifesto was Engels’ Anti-Duhring (1878). Marx was thereafter acclaimed as the founder of the new science of socialism and was credited by En-gels with two scientific discoveries—the materialistic concept of history and the theory of surplus value.

Engels’ efforts to popularize Marx’s ideas led to the schematization of some of Marx’s basic propositions; he claimed to have extended Marx’s methodological and critical approach, so that it embraced nature as well as history. With their followers, the distortion of Marx’s thought went further still. While Marx considered his general theory to be a scientific method of investigating the transient nature of every economic system and placed his confidence in proletarian class consciousness as an agency of change, “Marxism,” particularly in its Leninist version, has become a party ideology. This transformation is reflected in the substitution of the coercive direction of political elites for the spontaneous activity and consciousness of the producing class; paradoxically, these “Marxist” elites have transformed Marx’s theoretical propositions into norms of political action.

The relevance of Marx’s theories for the social sciences has been the subject of much fruitful debate. In a kind of osmotic process, Marx’s theories have been incorporated into the social sciences at the same time that they have stimulated important countertheories. A significant event in this process was Sorel’s critique of Durkheim (Sorel 1895), in which he praised the “materialist theory of sociology” according to which the various social systems—political, philosophical, religious—must be considered as interdependent and as having a common base; Sorel believed that what Marx assigned to sociology as its major subject for investigation was the underlying system of production and exchange and the conflict of classes.

Marxist social science developed in Germany, stimulated by the work of Rudolf Stammler (1896), and it was in response to Stammler that Max Weber began his influential studies of the Marxian thesis concerning the relationship between the economy and other social institutions. In Italy Marxist theories were discussed in several universities under the leadership of Antonio Labriola, Giovanni Gentile, and Benedetto Croce, and in France such discussions were stimulated by Frangois Simiand. Thomas G. Masaryk, while he was a university professor in Prague, produced a large work of analysis and criticism of Marx’s sociological method and hypotheses (1898). The international character of the “debate with the ghost of Marx” may be further illustrated by the fact that in tsarist Russia numerous books and periodicals paid increasing attention to “scientific socialism” even before Plekhanov and Lenin appeared on the scene. In the United States the influence of Marx’s ideas is evident in the writings of Albion W. Small, George H. Mead, Thorstein Veblen, and Joseph Schumpeter, among others.

Since World War I, Marx’s theories have not only stimulated sociological work in general but have also given impetus to a new field of sociological inquiry, the sociology of knowledge, exemplified by the works of Max Scheler and Karl Mannheim.

The process of incorporating Marx’s ideas into the social sciences in Western countries contrasts vividly with the unsure attempts by “Marxist” regimes to invent and decree a “Marxist” sociology. The efforts of these regimes unwittingly confirm one of Marx’s major hypotheses—that the dominant ideas of a society are those of its ruling class.

Maximilien Rubel

[See alsoCommunism; Economic Thoughtarticle On Socialist Thought;Marxism; Marxist SOCIOLOGY; Socialism; and the biographiesBernstein; Durkheim; Engels; Hegel; Hume; Lenin; LukÁcs; McAnnheim; Masaryk; Mead; Proudhon; Saint-simon; Scheler; Schumpeter; Slmiand; Small; Sorel; Spinoza; Tocqueville; Veblen; Weber, Max.]



(1841) 1927-1929 Über die Differenz der demokratischen und epikureischen Naturphilosophie. Pages 3-144 in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Historisch-kritische Gesamtausgabe: Werke, Schriften, Briefe. Section 1, Volume 1, part 1: Werke und Schriften bis 1844. Frankfurt am Main (Germany): Marx-Engels Verlag. → Written in 1841, the text with some notes was first published posthumously in 1902.

(1843) 1953 Kritik des hegelschen Staatsrechts. Pages 20-149 in Karl Marx, Die Frühschriften. Stuttgart (Germany): Kröner.

(1844a) 1964 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. New York: International Publishers; London: Lawrence & Wishart → Written in 1844 but first published posthumously in German in 1932. Sometimes referred to as the “Paris Manuscripts of 1844.”

(1844b) 1963 On the Jewish Question. Pages 1-40 in Karl Marx, Early Writings. London: Watts. → First published in Volume 1/2 of the Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher.

(1844c) 1963 Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction. Pages 41-59 in Karl Marx, Early Writings. London: Watts.→ First published in Volume 1/2 of the Deutsch-franz→sische Jahrbücher.

(1844d) 1963 Early Writings. Translated and edited by T. B. Bottomore. London: Watts. → First published in German. Contains “On the Jewish Question” “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”; and “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts.”

(1845a) 1956 The Holy Family. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. → First published as Die heilige Familie.

(1845b) 1935 Theses on Feuerbach. Pages 73-75 in Friedrich Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy. New York: International Publishers. → First published in German.

(1845-1846) 1939 Marx, Karl; and Engels, Friedrich

The German Ideology. Parts 1 and 3. With an introduction by R. Pascal. New York: International Publishers. → Written in 1845-1846, the full text was first published in 1932 as Die deutsche Ideologie and republished by Dietz Verlag in 1953.

(1847) 1963 The Poverty of Philosophy. With an introduction by Friedrich Engels. New York: International Publishers. → First published as Misere de la philosophic.

(1848) 1964 Marx, Karl; and Engels, FriedrichThe Communist Manifesto. New York: Washington Square Press. → First published in German.

(1849) 1962 Wage Labour and Capital. Volume 1, pages 74-97 in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Selected Works. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. → First published as “Lohnarbeit und Kapital” in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung.

1850) 1964 The Class Struggles in France: 1848-1850. New York: International Publishers. → A series of articles first published as “Die Klassenkampfe in Frankreich 1848 bis 1850” in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung: Politisch-okonomische Revue.

(1852) 1964 The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. New York: International Publishers. → First published in German.

(1856) 1899 Secret Diplomatic History of the Eighteenth Century. Edited by Eleanor Marx Aveling. London: Sonnenschein. → First published as “Revelations of the Diplomatic History of the Eighteenth Century” in the Sheffield Free Press.

(1857-1858) 1953 Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Okonomie. Berlin: Dietz. → Written in 1857-1858; first published posthumously by the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute, Moscow, in 1939-1941. A partial English translation was published in 1965 as Pre-capitalist Economic Formations by International Publishers.

(1857-1859) 1959 Marx, Karl; and Engels, FriedrichThe First Indian War of Independence: 1857-1859. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. → A collection of articles written for the New York Daily Tribune. Also includes articles dated 1853 and notes from a manuscript of the 1870s.

(1859) 1913 A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. Chicago: Kerr. → First published as Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie.

(1860) 1953 Herr Vogt. Berlin: Dietz. (1861-1863) 1952 Theories of Surplus Value: Selections. New York: International Publishers. → A selection from the volumes first published between 1905 and 1910 as Theorien über den Mehrwert, edited by Karl Kautsky, taken from Karl Marx’s preliminary manuscript written between 1861-1863 for a projected fourth volume of Capital

(1861-1866) 1961 Marx, Karl; and Engels, FriedrichThe Civil War in the United States. 3d (Centennial) ed. New York: International Publishers.→ A paper-back edition was published in 1964 by Citadel Press.

(1864) 1937 Address and Provisional Rules of the Working Men’s International Association. Pages 27-44 in Founding of the First International: A Documentary Record. New York: International Publishers.

(1867-1879) 1925-1926 Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. 3 vols. Chicago: Kerr. → Volume 1: The Process of Capitalist Production. Volume 2: The Process of Circulation of Capital. Volume 3: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole. The first volume was published in 1867. The manuscripts of Volumes 2 and 3 were written between 1867 and 1879. They were first published posthumously in German in 1885 and 1894.

(1871) 1963 The Civil War in France. With an introduction by Friedrich Engels. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. → First published in English. A paperback edition was published in 1964 by International Publishers.

(1875) 1959 Marx, Karl; and Engels, FriedrichCritique of the Gotha Programme. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. → Written by Marx in 1875 as “Randglossen zum Programm der deutschen Arbeiterpartei.” First published with notes by Engels in 1891.


Die Friihschriften. Stuttgart (Germany): Kröner, 1953. Marx on China, 1853-1860: Articles From the New York Daily Tribune. With an introduction and notes by Dona Torr. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1951.

Marx, Karl; and Engels, FriedrichRevolution in Spain. New York: International Publishers, 1939. → A collec tion of articles first published in the New York Daily Tribune, Putnam’s Magazine, the New American Encyclopedia, and Der Volkesstaat.

Marx, Karl; and Engels, FriedrichThe Russian Menace to Europe: A Collection of Articles, Speeches, Letters and News Dispatches. Edited by Paul W. Blackstock and Bert F. Hoselitz. Glencoe, III.: Free Press, 1952. → Contains materials written between 1848-1894.

Marx, Karl; and Engels, FriedrichKarl Marx and Frederick Engels on Britain. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1953. → Contains a collection of the most important writings of Marx and Engels, written between 1844-1895, dealing with England.

Marx, Karl; and Engels, FriedrichKarl Marx and Frederick Engels; Letters to Americans 1848-1895: A Selection. New York: International Publishers, 1953.

Marx, Karl; and Engels, FriedrichKarl Marx and Frederick Engels: Selected Correspondence. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1956. Contains material dated 1843-1895.

Marx, Karl, and Engels, FriedrichOn Colonialism. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1960. → Contains a collection of works by Marx and Engels written between 1850-1894.

Marx, Karl; and Engels, FriedrichSelected Works. 2 vols. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962.

Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy. 2d ed. Edited by T. B. Bottomore and M. Rubel, with a foreword by Erich Fromm. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964. → Contains works written by Marx between 1844-1875.


Marx, Karl; and Engels, FriedrichHistorisch-kritische Gesamtausgabe: Werke, Schriften, Briefe. 12 vols. Edited by David Rjazanov and V. Adoratskij, commissioned by the Marx-Engels Institute, Moscow. Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, and Moscow: Marx-Engels Verlag, 1927-1935.

Marx, Karl; and Engels, FriedrichKarl Marx, Friedrich Engels: Werke. Vols. 1-. Berlin: Dietz, 1956-.→ Volumes 1-19, 22-31 of a contemplated 36-volume edition.


Adler, Max 1922 Die Staatsauffassung des Marxismus: Ein Beitrag zur Unterscheidung von soziologischen und juristischen Methoden. Marx-Studien, Vol. 4, part 2. Vienna: Wiener Volksbuchhandlung.

Adler, Max (1930-1932) 1964 Soziologie des Marxismus. 3 vols. Vienna: Europa. → First published as Lehrbuch der materialistischen Geschichtsauffassung. Volume 1: Grundlegung der materialistischen Geschichtsauffassung. Volume 2: Natur und Gesellschaft. Volume 3: Die solidarische Gesellschaft.

Archiv für die Geschichte des Sozialismus und der Arbeiterbewegung. → Published between 1910-1930.

Berlin, Isaiah (1939) 1963 Karl Marx: His Life and Environment. 3d ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

Bernstein, Eduard (1899) 1909 Die Voraussetzungen des Sozialismus und die Aufgaben der Sozialdemokratie. Stuttgart (Germany): Dietz.

[Blech, William J.] 1939 Elements of Marxian Economic Theory and Its Criticism, by William J. Blake [pseud.]. New York: Cordon.

Bukharin, Nikolai I. (1921) 1965 Historical Materialism: A System of Sociology. Translated from the 3d Russian edition. New York: Russell. → First published as Teoriia istoricheskogo materializma.

Draper, Hal 1962 Marx and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Institut de Science Économique Appliquée, Cahiers Fifth Series: Etudes de Marxologie 6:5-73.

Dunayevskaya, Raya 1958 Marxism and Freedom From 1776 Until Today. New York: Bookman.

Engels, Friedrich (1878) 1959 Anti-Duhring: Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science. 2d ed. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. → First published as “Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwalzung der Wissenschaft” in a series of articles in Vorwärts (Leipzig). Translated from the 3d German edition of 1894.

Engels, Friedrich (1892) 1925 Marx, Heinrich Karl. Volume 6, pages 496-500 in Handworterbuch der Staatswissenschaften. 4th ed. Jena (Germany): Fischer.

Fromm, Erich (editor) 1961 Marx’s Concept of Man. New York: Ungar.

Gurvitch, Georges (1950)1963- La sociologie de Karl Marx. Volume 2, pages 220-322 in La vocation actuelle de la sociologie. 2d ed., rev. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Hilferding, Rudolf (1904) 1949 Bohm-Bawerk’s Criticism of Marx. Pages 119-196 in Eugen BohmBawerk, Karl Marx and the Close of His System. New York: Kelley. → First published in German.

Hirsch, Helmut 1963 Marxiana judaica. Institut de Science Éiconomique Appliquee, Cahiers Fifth Series: fitudes de Marxologie 7:5-22.

Hodges, Donald C. 1965 Engels’ Contribution to Marxism. Socialist Register 2:297-310.

Hook, Sidney (1936) 1958 From Hegel to Marx: Studies in the Intellectual Development of Karl Marx. New York: Humanities. → A paperback edition was published in 1962 by the University of Michigan Press.

Kamenka, Eugene 1962 The Ethical Foundations of Marxism. London: Routledge; New York: Praeger.

Kautsky, Karl (1906) 1918 Ethics and the Materialist Conception of History. Chicago: Kerr. → First published in German.

Kelsen, Hans (1920) 1923 Sozialismus und Staat: Eine Untersuchung der politischen Theorie des Marx-ismus. 2d ed., enl. Leipzig: Hirschfeld.

Korsch, Karl (1923) 1930 Marxismus und Philosophie. 2d ed. Leipzig: Hirschfeld.

Korsch, Karl (1938) 1963 Karl Marx. New York: Russell.

Lichtheim, George (1961) 1964 Marxism: An Historical and Critical Study. 2d rev. ed. London: Routledge.

LukÁcs, GyÖrgy (1919-1922) 1923 Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein: Studien iiber marxistische Dialektik. Berlin: Malik.

Marcuse, Herbert (1941) 1955 Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory. 2d ed. New York: Humanities; London: Routledge. → A paperback edition was published in 1960 by Beacon.

Marxismusstudien. 4 vols. Evangelische Studiengemeinschaft, Schriften. 1954-1962 Tübingen (Germany): Mohr.

Masaryk, Thomasxy G. (1898)1964 Die philosophischen und soziologischen Grundlagen des Marxismus: Studien zur socialen Frage. Osnabriick (Germany): Zeller.

Mattick, Paul 1962 Marx and Keynes. Institut de Science Économique Appliquée, Cahiers Éfth Series: Etudes de Marxologie 5:113-212.

Mayer, Henry 1960 Marx, Engels and the Politics of the Peasantry. Institut de Science ficonomique Appliquee, Cahiers Fifth Series: Etudes de Marxologie 3:91-152.

Mehring, Franz (1918) 1948 Karl Marx: The Story of His Life. London: Allen & Unwin. → First published in German. A paperback edition was published in 1962 by the University of Michigan Press.

Naville, Pierre 1957 De I’alienation a la jouissance: La genese de la sociologie du travail chez Marx et Engels. Paris: Rivière.

Nikolaevskii, Boris I.; and Maenchen-helfen, Otto 1936 Karl Marx: Man and Fighter. Philadelphia: Lippincott.

Ollman, Bertell 1967 Marx’s Conception of Human Nature. Unpublished manuscript. PAGE, CHARLES (1940) 1964 Class and American Sociology: From Ward to Ross. New York: Octagon Books.

Plamenatz, John P. (1954) 1961 German Marxism and Russian Communism. 3d ed. London: Longmans.

Plekhanov, Georgii V. (1895) 1947 In Defense of Materialism: The Development of the Monist View of History. London: Lawrence & Wishart. → First published in Russian.

Popper, Karl R. (1945) 1963 The Open Society and Its Enemies. 4th rev. ed. 2 vols. Princeton Univ. Press. →; Volume 1: The Spell of Plato. Volume 2: The High Tide of Prophecy: Hegel, Marx and the Aftermath.

Rubel, Maximilien 1956 Bibliographie des oeuvres de Karl Marx: Avec en appendice un repertoire des oeuvres de Friedrich Engels. Paris: Riviere. → A Supplement was published in 1960.

Rubel, Maximilien 1957 Karl Marx: Essai de biographie intellectuelle. Paris: Riviere.

Schumpeter, Joseph A. (1942) 1950 Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. 3d ed. New York: Harper; London: Allen & Unwin. → A paperback edition was published by Harper in 1962.

Sorel, Georges 1895 Les theories de M. Durkheim. Devenir social 1:1-26, 148-180.

Stammler, Rudolf (1896) 1924 Wirtschaft und Recht nach der materialistichen Geschichtsauffassung: Eine sozialphilosophische Untersuchung. 5th ed. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Weber, Max (1907) 1922 R. Stammlers “Uberwindung” der materialistischen Geschichtsauffassung. Pages 291-359 in Max Weber, Gesammelte Aufsdtze zur Wissenschaftslehre. Tubingen (Germany): Mohr.

Zeitlin, Irving Mordecai 1967 Marxism: A Re-examination. Princeton: Van Nostrand.

Zeitschrift fur Sozialforschung. → Published between 1932 and 1941. Title changed to Studies in Philosophy and Social Science with Volume 8, No. 3. It represented (until 1938) a serious attempt to develop a Marxian sociology in nondogmatic terms.

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Karl Marx

Karl Marx

The German philosopher, radical economist, and revolutionary leader Karl Marx (1818-1883) founded modern "scientific" socialism. His basic ideas—known as Marxism—form the foundation of socialist and communist movements throughout the world.

Karl Marx spent most of his life in exile. He was exiled from his native Prussia in 1849 and went to Paris, from which he was expelled a few months later. He then settled in London, where he spent the rest of his life in dire poverty and relative obscurity. He was hardly known to the English public in his lifetime. His reputation as a radical thinker began to spread only after the emergence of the socialist parties in Europe, especially in Germany and France, in the 1870s and 1880s. From then on, Marx's theories continued to be hotly debated in the growing labor and socialist movements everywhere, including Czarist Russia.

By the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, socialist parties everywhere had by and large accepted a considerable measure of Marxism, even though with modifications. This was especially true of the idea of the class struggle and the establishment of a socialist society, in which economic exploitation and social inequality would be abolished. Marxism achieved its first great triumph in the Russian Revolution of 1917, when its successful leader, V. I. Lenin, a lifelong disciple of Marx, organized the Soviet Union as a proletarian dictatorship based on Marx's philosophy, as Lenin interpreted it. Henceforth, Marx became a world figure and his theories a subject of universal attention and controversy.

Early Life

Marx was born in Trier, Rhenish Prussia, on May 5, 1818, the son of Heinrich Marx, a lawyer, and Henriette Presburg Marx, a Dutchwoman. Both Heinrich and Henriette were descendants of a long line of rabbis. Barred from the practice of law as a Jew, Heinrich Marx became converted to Lutheranism about 1817, and Karl was baptized in the same church in 1824, at the age of 6. Karl attended a Lutheran elementary school but later became an atheist and materialist, rejecting both the Christian and Jewish religions. It was he who coined the aphorism "Religion is the opium of the people," a cardinal principle in modern communism.

Karl attended the Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium in Trier for 5 years, graduating in 1835, at the age of 17. The gymnasium curriculum was the usual classical one—history, mathematics, literature, and languages, particularly Greek and Latin. Karl became proficient in French and Latin, both of which he learned to read and write fluently. In later years he taught himself other languages, so that as a mature scholar he could also read Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Scandinavian, Russian, and English. As his articles in the New York Daily Tribune show, he came to handle the English language masterfully (he loved Shakespeare, whose works he knew by heart), although he never lost his heavy Teutonic accent in speaking.

In October 1835 Marx matriculated in Bonn University, where he attended courses primarily in jurisprudence, as it was his father's ardent wish that he become a lawyer. Marx, however, was more interested in philosophy and literature than in law. He wanted to be a poet and dramatist, and in his student days he wrote a great deal of poetry—most of it preserved—which in his mature years he rightly recognized as imitative and mediocre. He spent a year at Bonn, studying little but roistering and drinking. He spent a day in jail for disturbing the peace and fought one duel, in which he was wounded in the right eye. He also piled up heavy debts.

Marx's dismayed father took him out of Bonn and had him enter the University of Berlin, then a hub of intellectual ferment. In Berlin a galaxy of brilliant thinkers was challenging existing institutions and ideas, including religion, philosophy, ethics, and politics. The spirit of the great philosopher G. W. F. Hegel was still palpable there. A group known as the Young Hegelians, which included teachers such as Bruno Bauer and bright, philosophically oriented students, met frequently to debate and interpret the subtle ideas of the master. Young Marx soon became a member of the Young Hegelian circle and was deeply influenced by its prevailing ideas.

Marx spent more than 4 years in Berlin, completing his studies there in March 1841. He had given up jurisprudence and devoted himself primarily to philosophy. On April 15, 1841, the University of Jena awarded "Carolo Henrico Marx" the degree of doctor of philosophy on the strength of his abstruse and learned dissertation, Difference between Democritean and Epicurean Natural Philosophy, which was based on Greek-language sources.

His Exile

Marx's hopes of teaching philosophy at Bonn University were frustrated by the reactionary policy of the Prussian government. He then turned to writing and journalism for his livelihood. In 1842 he became editor of the liberal Cologne newspaper Rheinische Zeitung, but it was suppressed by the Berlin government the following year. Marx then moved to Paris. There he first came in contact with the working class, gave up philosophy as a life goal, and undertook his serious study of economics.

In January 1845 Marx was expelled from France "at the instigation of the Prussian government," as he said. He moved to Brussels, where he lived until 1848 and where he founded the German Workers' party and was active in the Communist League. It was for the latter that he, with his friend and collaborator Friedrich Engels, published, in 1848, the famous Manifesto of the Communist Party (known as the Communist Manifesto). Expelled by the Belgian government for his radicalism, Marx moved back to Cologne, where he became editor of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in June 1848. Less than a year later, in May 1849, the paper was suppressed by the Prussian government, and Marx himself was exiled. He returned to Paris, but in September the French government expelled him again. Hounded from the Continent, Marx finally settled in London, where he lived as a stateless exile (Britain denied him citizenship and Prussia refused to renaturalize him) for the rest of his life.

In London, Marx's sole means of support was journalism. He wrote for both German-and English-language publications. From August 1852 to March 1862 he was correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune, contributing a total of about 355 articles, many of which were used by that paper as leading (unsigned) editorials. Journalism, however, paid wretchedly (£2 per article); Marx was literally saved from starvation by the continuous financial support of Engels. In 1864 Marx helped to found in London the International Workingmen's Association (known as the First International), for which he wrote the inaugural address. In 1872 he dissolved the International, to prevent it from falling into the hands of the anarchists under the leadership of Mikhail Bakunin. Thereafter, Marx's political activities were confined mainly to correspondence with radicals in Europe and America, offering advice and helping to shape the socialist and labor movements.

Appearance and Personal Life

Marx was short and stocky, with a bushy head of hair and flashing eyes. His skin was swarthy, so that his family and friends called him Mohr in German, or Moor in English. He himself adopted the nickname and used it with intimates. His physique gave an impression of vigor, despite the fact that he was a latent tubercular (four of his younger siblings died of tuberculosis). A man of immense learning and sharp intellectual power, Marx, often impatient and irascible, antagonized people by his sardonic wit, bluntness, and dogmatism, which bordered on arrogance. His enemies were legion. Yet, despite his deserved reputation as a hard and disagreeable person, he had a soft spot for children; he deeply loved his own daughters, who, in turn, adored him.

Marx was married to his childhood sweetheart, Jenny von Westphalen, who was known as the "most beautiful girl in Trier," on June 19, 1843. She was totally devoted to him. She died of cancer on Dec. 2, 1881, at the age of 67. For Marx it was a blow from which he never recovered.

The Marxes had seven children, four of whom died in infancy or childhood. Of the three surviving daughters—Jenny (1844-1883), Laura (1845-1911), and Eleanor (1855-1898)—two married Frenchmen: Jenny, Charles Longuet; Laura, Paul Lafargue. Both of Marx's sons-in-law became prominent French socialists and members of Parliament. Eleanor lived with Edward Aveling and was active as a British labor organizer. Both Laura and Eleanor committed suicide.

Marx spent most of his working time in the British Museum, doing research both for his newspaper articles and his books. He was a most conscientious scholar, never satisfied with secondhand information but tracing facts and figures to their original sources. In preparation for Das Kapital, he read virtually every available work in economic and financial theory and practice in the major languages of Europe.

At home, Marx often stayed up till four in the morning, reading and making voluminous notes in his tight handwriting, which was so crabbed as to be almost unreadable. He was a heavy smoker of pipes and cigars, using up quantities of matches in the process. His workroom was densely smoke-filled. "Das Kapital," he told his son-in-law Paul Lafargue, "will not even pay for the cigars I smoked writing it."

Marx's excessive smoking, wine drinking, and consumption of heavily spiced foods may have been contributory causes to his illnesses, most of which would appear to be, in the light of modern knowledge, allergic and psychosomatic. In the last two decades of his life he was tormented by a mounting succession of ailments that would have tried the patience of Job. He suffered from hereditary liver derangement (of which, he claimed, his father died); frequent outbreaks of carbuncles and furuncles on his neck, chest, back, and buttocks (often he could not sit); toothaches; eye inflammations; lung abscesses; hemorrhoids; pleurisy; and persistent headaches and coughs that made sleep impossible without drugs. In the final dozen or so years of his life, he could no longer do any sustained intellectual work. He died in his armchair in London on March 14, 1883, about two months before his sixty-fifth birthday. He lies buried in London's Highgate Cemetery, where the grave is marked by a bust of him.

His Works

Marx's writings fall into two general categories, the polemical-philosophical and the economic-political. The first reflected his Hegelian-idealistic period; the second, his revolutionary-political interests.

Marx wrote hundreds of articles, brochures, and reports but few books as such. He published only five books during his lifetime. Two of them were polemical, and three were political-economic. The first, The Holy Family (1845), written in collaboration with Engels, was a polemic against Marx's former teacher and Young Hegelian philosopher Bruno Bauer. The second was Misère de la philosophie (The Poverty of Philosophy), written by Marx himself in French and published in Paris and Brussels in 1847. As its subtitle indicates, this polemical work was "An Answer to the Philosophy of Poverty by M. Proudhon."

Marx's third book, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, published serially in a German publication in New York City in 1852, is a brilliant historical-political analysis of the rise and intrigues of the Bonaparte who became Napoleon III. The remaining two books, both on economics, are the ones on which Marx's worldwide reputation rests: Critique of Political Economy and, more particularly, Das Kapital (Capital).

Critique was published in 1859, after about 14 years of intermittent research. Marx considered it merely a first installment, expecting to bring out additional volumes, but he scrapped his plan in favor of another approach. The result was Das Kapital, subtitled Critique of Political Economy, of which only the first volume appeared, in 1867, in Marx's lifetime. After his death, two other volumes were brought out by Engels on the basis of the materials Marx left behind. Volumes 2 (1885) and 3 (1894) can be properly regarded as works by Marx and Engels, rather than by Marx himself. Indeed, without Engels, as Marx admitted, the whole monumental enterprise might not have been produced at all. On the night of Aug. 16, 1867, when Marx completed correcting the proof sheets of volume 1, he wrote to Engels in Manchester: "I have YOU alone to thank that this has been made possible. Without your sacrifices for me I could never possibly have done the enormous work for the three volumes. I embrace you, full of thanks!"

A fourth volume of Das Kapital was brought together by Karl Kautsky after Engels's death. It was based on Marx's notes and materials from Critique of Political Economy and was published in three parts, under the title Theories of Surplus Value, between 1905 and 1910. A Russian edition, also in three parts, came out between 1954 and 1961, and an English translation in 1968.

Two of Marx's books were published posthumously. The Class Struggles in France, 1848-1850, written in 1871, appeared in 1895. It was, Engels wrote in his introduction, "Marx's first attempt, with the aid of his materialist conception, to explain a section of contemporary history from the given economic situation." The second posthumous work, The German Ideology, which Marx wrote in collaboration with Engels in 1845-1846, was not published in full until 1932. The book is an attack on the philosophers Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach and Max Stirner and on the so-called true socialists.

The rest of Marx's publications, mostly printed posthumously, consist of brochures. Herr Vogt (1860) is a furious polemic against a man named Karl Vogt, whom Marx accused of being a police spy. Wage-Labor and Capital (1884) is a reprint of newspaper articles. Critique of the Gotha Programme (1891) consists of notes which Marx sent to the German Socialist party congress in 1875. Wages, Price and Profit (1898) is an address that Marx delivered at the General Council of the International in 1865.

His Ideas

Marx's world importance does not lie in his economic system, which, as critics point out, was not original but was derived from the classical economists Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Das Kapital, indeed, is not primarily a technical work on economics but one that uses economic materials to establish a moral-philosophical-sociological structure. Marx's universal appeal lies in his moral approach to social-economic problems, in his insights into the relationships between institutions and values, and in his conception of the salvation of mankind. Hence Marx is best understood if one studies, not his economics, but his theory of history and politics.

The central idea in Marx's thought is the materialistic conception of history. This involves two basic notions: that the economic system at any given time determines the prevailing ideas; and that history is an ongoing process regulated—predetermined—by the economic institutions which evolve in regular stages.

The first notion turned Hegel upside down. In Hegel's view, history is determined by the universal idea (God), which shapes worldly institutions. Marx formulated the reverse: that institutions shape ideas. This is known as the materialistic interpretation of history. Marx's second notion, that of historical evolution, is connected with his concept of dialectics. He saw in history a continuing dialectical process, each stage of development being the product of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.

Thus thesis corresponds to the ancient, precapitalist period, when there were no classes or exploitation. Antithesis corresponds to the era of capitalism and labor exploitation. Synthesis is the final product—communism, under which capital would be owned in common and there would be no exploitation.

To Marx, capitalism is the last stage of historical development before communism. The proletariat, produced by capitalism, is the last historical class. The two are fated to be in conflict—the class struggle, which Marx proclaimed so eloquently in the Communist Manifesto—until the proletariat is inevitably victorious and establishes a transitional order, the proletarian dictatorship, a political system which Marx did not elaborate or explain. The proletarian dictatorship, in turn, evolves into communism, or the classless society, the final stage of historical development, when there are no classes, no exploitation, and no inequalities. The logical implication is that with the final establishment of communism, history comes to a sudden end. The dialectical process then presumably ceases, and there are no more historical evolutions or social struggles. This Marxist interpretation of history, with its final utopian-apocalyptic vision, has been criticized in the noncommunist world as historically inaccurate, scientifically untenable, and logically absurd.

Nevertheless, Marx's message of an earthly paradise has provided millions with hope and new meaning of life. From this point of view, one may agree with the Austrian economist Joseph A. Schumpeter that "Marxism is a religion" and Marx is its "prophet."

Further Reading

The first volumes in the 13-volume Karl Marx Library, edited and translated by Saul K. Padover, have been published: Karl Marx on Revolution, vol. 1 (1971) and Karl Marx on the First International, vol. 2 (1972).

There are no scholarly, comprehensive, or objective biographies of Marx. The best is Franz Mehring, Karl Marx: The Story of His Life (1935), but it is now outdated. Also outdated are Otto Rühle, Karl Marx: His Life and Work (1929), and Karl Korsch, Karl Marx (1938). A more recent book, Robert Payne, Marx (1968), lacks analysis, and John Lewis, The Life and Teaching of Karl Marx (1965), is slanted. Sir Isaiah Berlin, Karl Marx: His Life and Environment (1939), is recommended as an acute interpretation of Marx's life, although it is not a biography. A political and intellectual biography of Marx and Engels is Oscar J. Hammen, The Red '48ers: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1969). See also Edward Hallett Carr, Karl Marx: A Study in Fanaticism (1934), and Leopold Schwarzschild, The Red Prussian: The Life and Legend of Karl Marx (1947).

Recommended for the treatment of various aspects of Marxism are Sidney Hook, Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx (1933); Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (1942); Henry B. Mayo, Democracy and Marxism (1955; published in 1960 as Introduction to Marxist Theory); Erich From, ed., Marx's Concept of Man (1961); Henry Collins and Chimen Abramsky, Karl Marx and the British Labour Movement: Years of the First International (1965); Bertram D. Wolfe, Marxism: One Hundred Years in the Life of a Doctrine (1965); Shlomo Avineri, The Social and Political Thought ofKarl Marx (1968); Henry Lefebvre, The Sociology of Marx (1968); Raymond Aron, Marxism and the Existentialists (1969); and Louis Althusser, For Marx (1969). □

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Marx, Karl

Marx, Karl (1818–83) A German social theorist, founder of revolutionary communism, and in sociology of historical materialism. Marx began studying law at the University of Bonn and completed his studies at the University of Berlin. Soon after arriving in Berlin, he joined an iconoclastic and bohemian intellectual group (who were to become known as the Young Hegelians), and took up philosophy. After completing his studies in 1841 he became a journalist on, and later the editor of, a radical bourgeois newspaper called the Rheinische Zeitung. Rather unluckily, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia happened to read an attack on himself that Marx had penned, and prevailed upon the Prussian government to close the paper down.

In 1843 a jobless Marx married his childhood sweetheart, Jenny von Westphalen, and moved to Paris. During the two years he spent in Paris, Marx met and quarrelled with many of the leading radicals of the time, including the anarchists Bakunin and Proudon, and the poet Heinrich Heine. More important for his own development were some of the unknown people he met, especially the socialist artisans and Friedrich Engels, the son of a German manufacturer who was already managing his father's factory at Manchester in England. Engels was to become Marx's lifelong friend, collaborator, and much-put-upon patron.

Marx's more or less simultaneous discovery of socialism and the works of the British political economists, principally Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and James Mill, enabled him to distinguish himself clearly from his Young Hegelian mentors and so lay the foundations for his own theoretical system. Of the three manuscripts he wrote during this period, only the two historically less significant ones were published. The Holy Family and The Poverty of Philosophy. Very likely, as would still be the case today, this was because these two were studies of better-known contemporaries rather than statements of an original position by an unknown author; this was not true of the third text, that which has become known as The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. These early publications did little to create a reputation for Marx. By contrast, the ideas outlined in the Manuscripts provided him with the intellectual sustenance necessary to sustain himself over a long career as an émigré activist and private scholar, a career marked by poverty and academic as well as political neglect (the interest of the likes of Tsar Nicholas proving to be short-lived). Moreover, although the Manuscripts were not published until the 1930s, their appearance even then was a major intellectual event and had a profound effect on Marxist scholarship, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. For some, they represented the key to a hitherto suppressed humanistic Marxist and socialist tradition that provided a basis for the criticism, not only of capitalism, but also of all ‘actually existing socialisms’, whether Stalinist or social-democratic. For others, they made explicit and so allowed the identification and removal of anachronistic, non-scientific traces in Marx's mature theory, and restored its explanatory potential.

The Manuscripts are most often celebrated for the passion with which the concept of alienation (the wage-worker's lack of control over the production and disposal of his or her product) is presented, but equally noteworthy is the general nature of the argument of which this concept is a part. This is because the argument represents an accessible as well as an extremely powerful instance of the mode of argumentation that has become known as critique: that is, exposing the often unjustified assumptions upon which intellectual positions commonly rest. In what still seems like a striking instance of lateral thinking, Marx chose to go about his ‘settling of accounts’ with his philosophical past by applying the method of critique to the aforementioned British political economists, and drawing conclusions about the validity of Hegel's theory of history. What he discovered was that both bodies of thought unproblematically assumed that inequality and all of its attendant sufferings follow from the accident of birth. Thus what Marx shows is that wherever one looks in the conceptual schema of the political economists what one finds is that it rests upon the unjustified assumption of the prior existence of private property.

Marx's own explanation for the existence of private property remains very underdeveloped in the Manuscripts, resting as they do on the concept of alienation. Instead, he is far more concerned to spell out what he sees as the consequences of the psychological and social estrangements that follow from this lack of control, and the resulting universal human need for revolution (see REBELLION, REVOLUTION). It was to take him a further twenty years to specify exactly why alienation occurred.

Marx made his first move towards this goal just one year after he wrote the Manuscripts, in the short text that has become known as The Theses on Feuerbach. Feuerbach was the ‘Young Hegelian’ to whom Marx owed most. The critique of his ideas was eventually to have a significance which extended far beyond Marx's own theoretical system. The thought that launched not just Marxism but structuralism more generally is most concisely crystallized in the sixth thesis, which states that ‘the essence of man is not an abstraction inherent in each particular individual. The real nature of man is the totality of social relations.’

Once Marx had in this way defined his starting-point, he moved rapidly on to the specification of the concrete nature of these relations. In The German Ideology of 1846, also unpublished at the time, he used the terms ‘productive forces’, division of labour, and ‘internal intercourse’ or ideology to conceptualize them, and on this basis was able to distinguish four different forms of society covering the whole span of human history: primitive communism, ancient or slave society, feudalism, and capitalism. He also began to explore the issue of how one form was succeeded by another. His suggestion was that, over time, contradictions gradually developed within each form of society because of the constraints imposed upon the development of the productive forces by the ruling ideologies of property. These contradictions resulted in struggles over the distribution of any surplus between the classes created in all societies (except communist ones) by the organization of the division of labour. Marx identified the principal classes of capitalist societies as the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

The theory lying behind the concept of class was still incomplete since the theoretically critical varying modes of surplus appropriation had yet to be specified. Nevertheless, Marx was clearly extremely excited by the analytical possibilities opened up by his possession of this concept, and he spent the next ten years writing empirically orientated texts in which he sought to demonstrate them. Among the most important of these were The Communist Manifesto (1848), The Class Struggles in France (1850), and The Eighteenth Brumaire of Napoleon Bonaparte (1852).

It was not until 1857, and nine years after he had settled in London, that Marx returned seriously to his theoretical studies and the problem of what it was about the ways in which particular forces of production, divisions of labour, and ideologies of property were combined, which divided people into classes. The result of these labours were the eight hundred or so pages that have become known as The Grundrisse (1858). Because Marx was by now a reasonably well-known journalist, he at last found a publisher for his theoretical work. With great difficulty Marx managed to extract a slim volume entitled A Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy (1859) from The Grundrisse. Its publication was a resounding failure, and with the exception of the famous base versus superstructure metaphor contained in its Preface, the text itself appears to have been incomprehensible even to many of his closest friends. Marx and his publisher lost interest in publishing any more volumes of such material. This was unfortunate because it meant that it was to be several more years before Marx was forced to present the missing link in his economic theory, the labour theory of value, and to elaborate upon its consequences in a publishable form. This he finally did in 1867 when the first volume of Capital appeared. Two more volumes were published posthumously in 1885 and 1893. Chief amongst the theoretical deductions drawn from the labour theory of value in these later volumes was the theory of crisis he constructed around what he termed ‘the tendency of the rate of profit to fall’ and its ‘counteracting influences’.

In sum, then, Marx died having solved (for himself at least) the principal problem remaining in his economic theory; namely, why should the mode of appropriation of surplus that is specific to capitalism organize those engaged in production into two antagonistic classes? What he did not do was to specify what consequences, if any, his new-found theoretical precision might have for his understanding of the mode of surplus appropriation specific to the other social forms that he had identified. Nor did he enlarge on the more or less incidental remarks he had made throughout his career on such topics as the state, ideology, class, law, socialism, and (of all things) communism. One ironic consequence of this unevenness in the development of Marx's thought was that the humane concerns underlying his economic theory were forgotten by many later Marxists, as they often ruthlessly acted upon the extremely powerful, but very partial political and social insights produced by the same theory.

Of the countless biographies and expositions of his thought, David McLellan's Karl Marx: His Life and Thought (1973) still commends itself, for its clarity and attention to detail. Marxist sociology has, of course, been both controversial (sometimes self-consciously so) and heavily criticized. Much of this is discussed elsewhere in this dictionary (see especially those topics listed under the heading ‘Marxist sociology’). See also CAPITAL; MARXISM; MEANS OF PRODUCTION; MODE OF PRODUCTION; RELATIONS OF PRODUCTION.

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Marx, Karl

Karl Marx

Born: May 5, 1818
Trier, Germany (formerly in Rhenish Prussia)
Died: March 14, 1883
London, England

German philosopher and political leader

The German philosopher, revolutionary economist (one who studies the use of money and other material funds), and leader Karl Marx founded modern "scientific" socialism (a system of society in which no property is held as private). His basic ideasknown as Marxismform the foundation of Socialist and Communist (an economic and government system characterized by citizens holding all property and goods in common) movements throughout the world.

Early life

Karl Heinreich Marx was born in Trier, Rhenish Prussia (present-day Germany), on May 5, 1818, the son of Heinrich Marx, a lawyer, and Henriette Presburg Marx, a Dutchwoman. Both Heinrich and Henriette were descendants of a long line of rabbis (masters or teachers of Jewish religion). Barred from the practice of law because he was Jewish, Heinrich Marx converted to Lutheranism about 1817. Karl was baptized in the same church in 1824 at the age of six. Karl attended a Lutheran elementary school but later became an atheist (one who does not believe in the existence of God) and a materialist (one who believes that physical matter is all that is real), rejecting both the Christian and Jewish religions. It was he who coined the saying "Religion is the opium [drug that deadens pain, is today illegal, and comes from the poppy flower] of the people," a basic principle in modern communism.

Karl attended the Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium in Trier for five years, graduating in 1835 at the age of seventeen. The gymnasium's program was the usual classical onehistory, mathematics, literature, and languages, particularly Greek and Latin. Karl became very skillful in French and Latin, both of which he learned to read and write fluently. In later years he taught himself other languages, so that as a mature scholar he could also read Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Scandinavian, Russian, and English. As his articles in the New York Daily Tribune show, he came to handle the English language masterfully (he loved Shakespeare [15641616], whose works he knew by heart), although he never lost his heavy German accent when speaking.

Young adult years

In October 1835 Marx enrolled in Bonn University in Bonn, Germany, where he attended courses primarily in law, as it was his father's desire that he become a lawyer. Marx, however, was more interested in philosophy (the study of knowledge) and literature than in law. He wanted to be a poet and dramatist (one who writes plays). In his student days he wrote a great deal of poetrymost of it preservedthat in his mature years he rightly recognized as imitative and unremarkable. He spent a year at Bonn, studying little but partying and drinking a lot. He also piled up heavy debts.

Marx's dismayed father took him out of Bonn and had him enter the University of Berlin, then a center of intellectual discussion. In Berlin a circle of brilliant thinkers was challenging existing institutions and ideas, including religion, philosophy, ethics (the study of good and bad involving morals), and politics. Marx joined this group of radical (extreme in opinion) thinkers wholeheartedly. He spent more than four years in Berlin, completing his studies with a doctoral degree in March 1841.

Forced to move on

Marx then turned to writing and journalism to support himself. In 1842 he became editor of the liberal (open to new ideas) Cologne newspaper Rheinische Zeitung, but the Berlin government prohibited it from being published the following year. In January 1845 Marx was expelled from France "at the instigation [order] of the Prussian government," as he said. He moved to Brussels, Belgium, where he founded the German Workers' Party and was active in the Communist League. Here he wrote the famous Manifesto of the Communist Party (known as the Communist Manifesto ). Expelled (forced out) by the Belgian government, Marx moved back to Cologne, where he became editor of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in June 1848. Less than a year later, the Prussian government stopped the paper, and Marx himself was exiled (forced to leave). He went to Paris, but in September the French government expelled him again. Marx finally settled in London, England, where he lived as a stateless exile (Britain denied him citizenship and Prussia refused to take him back as a citizen) for the rest of his life.

In London Marx's sole means of support was journalism. He wrote for both German-and English-language publications. From August 1852 to March 1862 he was correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune, contributing a total of about 355 articles. Journalism, however, paid very poorly; Marx was literally saved from starvation by the financial support of friend and fellow writer, Friedrich Engels (18201895). In London in 1864 Marx helped to found the International Workingmen's Association (known as the First International), for which he wrote the inaugural (opening) address. Thereafter Marx's political activities were limited mainly to exchanging letters with radicals in Europe and America, offering advice, and helping to shape the socialist and labor movements.

Personal life

Marx was married to his childhood sweetheart, Jenny von Westphalen, who was known as the "most beautiful girl in Trier," on June 19, 1843. She was totally devoted to him. She died of cancer on December 2, 1881, at the age of sixty-seven. For Marx it was a blow from which he never recovered.

The Marxes had seven children, four of whom died in infancy or childhood. He deeply loved his daughters, who, in turn, adored him. Of the three surviving daughtersJenny, Laura, and Eleanortwo married Frenchmen. Both of Marx's sons-in-law became prominent French socialists and members of Parliament. Eleanor was active as a British labor organizer.

Marx spent most of his working time in the British Museum, doing research both for his newspaper articles and his books. In preparation for Das Kapital, he read every available work in economic and financial theory and practice.

Marx's excessive smoking, wine drinking, and love of heavily spiced foods may have been contributing causes to his illnesses. In the final dozen years of his life, he could no longer do any continuous intellectual work. He died in his armchair in London on March 14, 1883, about two months before his sixty-fifth birthday. He lies buried in London's Highgate Cemetery, where his grave is marked by a bust (sculpture of a person's head and shoulders) of him.

His works

Marxism achieved its first great triumph in the Russian Revolution (191721; when the lower class overthrew three hundred years of czar rule), when its successful leader, Vladimir Ilich Lenin (18701924), a lifelong follower of Marx, organized the Soviet Union as a proletarian dictatorship (country ruled by the lower class). Lenin based the new government on Marx's philosophy as Lenin interpreted it. Thus, Marx became a world figure and his theories became a subject of universal attention and controversy (open to dispute). Marx wrote hundreds of articles, brochures, and reports, but only five books.

His ideas

Marx's universal appeal lies in his moral approach to socio-economic problems, in his insights into the relationships between institutions and values, and in his ideas about the salvation (to save from destruction) of mankind. Hence Marx is best understood if one studies not only his economics, but also his theory of history and politics. The central idea in Marx's thought involves two basic notions: that the economic system at any given time determines the current ideas; and that history is an ongoing process keeping up with the economic institutions that change in regular stages.

To Marx, capitalism (an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of goods) was the last stage of historical development before communism. The lowest social or economic class of a community, when produced by capitalism, is the last historical class. The two are fated to be in conflictthe class struggle, which Marx wrote of in the Communist Manifesto until the lower class inevitably wins. The proletarian dictatorship, in turn, develops into communism, in which there are no classes and no inequalities. The logical suggestion is that with the final establishment of communism, history comes to a sudden end. This Marxist interpretation has been criticized in the noncommunist world as historically inaccurate, scientifically weak, and logically ridiculous. Nevertheless, Marx's message of an earthly paradise (a classless society) has provided millions with hope and a new meaning of life. From this point of view, one may agree with the Austrian economist Joseph A. Schumpeter that "Marxism is a religion" and Marx is its "prophet."

For More Information

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

Strathern, Paul. Marx in 90 Minutes. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2001.

Wheen, Francis. Karl Marx: A Life. New York: Norton, 2000.

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Marx, Karl

Marx, Karl 1818-1883


By identifying the rational core in the German philosopher Georg Hegels writings, the German political philosopher Karl Marx not only clarified the essence of the human mind, but also conceptualized the relationship between Hegels subjective and objective mind. Marx suggested that the objective mind had primacy over subjectivity. Identifying the sociohistorical essence of the mind (consciousness), Marx realized that the individual mind was a societal product and that the mind of a single individual was not just the mind of a single person, but that the individual mind was always and necessarily embedded in society and part of society. Marx and his colleague Friedrich Engels discussed the sociohistorical dimension of the mind extensively in their work The German Ideology (1932), in which they also suggested that language development paralleled the development of the mind, and that language developed historically from the need to interact with other humans.

Marxs sociohistorical conceptualization of the mind was part of his view on human nature, which states that the essence of human nature is its societal quality and thus humans should be understood in the context of the ensemble of societal relations. The idea that the mind is in its essence sociohistorical was not in contradiction to the notion of the era that the mind has a natural biological dimension. Marx in fact understood the English naturalist Charles Darwins book on natural selection as the natural-historical foundation for his view. The difference between Marx, who regarded Darwins theory highly, and Darwin was that for Marx it would be impossible to transfer rules that govern animal behavior to the history of human societies.

According to Marx, because of the sociohistorical quality of the mind, it is exposed to power in contexts and relations of production. This means that the ideas of the ruling class are also the ruling ideas and the ruling ideas are the cognitive expression of the ruling material relations. Thus, morality, religion, and metaphysics cannot be independent. Marx used the metaphor of a camera obscura to describe ideology or false consciousness. Marx knew about psychological phenomena such as optical illusions, the invertive function of the eye, and technological applications such as the camera obscura. He came to the conclusion that the mind has distorted views of the world (optical illusions) and that the mind works upside down (camera obscura). In ideological theories humans and their relations appear upside down but in reality these theories arise from the historical life processes of humans. This metaphor also appeared in Marxs first volume of the Capital (1867) on the fetish character of the commodity. Relationships among human beings appear as relationships among produced things (commodities), and these commodities seem to possess supernatural powers.

Marx connected the mind with power and with labor, the material activities and practices of humans. An analysis of the psychology and philosophy of his time, when cognitive processes were disconnected from real-life activities, demonstrates its significance. Ideas and conceptions of the mind are interwoven with the material activity of human beings. Thus, Marx believed that imagination, thinking, the mental interaction of humans should be understood as the direct outcome of material behavior. The same applies to mental productions as represented in the language of politics, laws, morality, religion, and metaphysics. For Marx real active human beings are the producers of their ideas and they are determined by a particular developmental stage of the productive forces. This conceptualization of the mind led to the famous idea that life is not determined by the mind, but the mind by life. It is not the mind of humans that determines their being, but to the contrary it is the societal being of humans that determines their mind. Although Marx had no doubts about the sociohistorical quality of the mind, he also believed that the mind could be developed further than the zeitgeist, or the existing societal realities of a particular time.

Marx moved according to his philosophy with its emphasis on productive activity (labor), from an objective mind understood by Hegel as law, morality, and ethics, to viewing the objective mind as industry. Accordingly, one should be able to understand the nature of humans in the objectified products of human labor. For Marx the history of industry and the developing objective existence of industry was the open book of human psychology. In the course of this argument, Marx expressed one of the first criticisms of the content of modern psychology: A psychology, for which this book, the sensuously most tangible and accessible part of history, is closed, cannot become a real science with a genuine content (1968, p. 543).

In terms of methodology, Marx urged philosophers to study concrete individuals who live in concrete historical societies and not to reflect upon the abstract individual beyond history and society. He suggested a methodology that begins with active humans in order to understand their ideas and imaginations. Human existence and history starts with the fact that humans must be able to live, which includes eating, drinking, clothing, shelter, and procreation. History in its course also leads to the development of new needs and at a certain point in history humans did not only find their means of living but they produced them. Thus, the history of humankind and the history of the mind should be studied in relation to the history of production.

Contemporary psychologists assume more or less implicitly that functions or domains such as consciousness, reasoning, language, memory, or perception belong to an individual mind, and often base their theories and research practices on an individualistic concept of the mind. However, a few psychologists based their theories on Marxs sociohistorical conceptualization of the mind. His ideas inspired the Soviet philosophical psychologist Sergej Rubinstein (18891960), the cultural-historical school with its most influential thinker Lev Vygotsky (18961934), the French psychologist Georges Politzer (19031942), the German thinker Klaus Holzkamp (19271995), and various forms of critical psychology. It also can be demonstrated that Marx inspired early American social psychology. In addition, followers of the Frankfurt school merged his theories, yet not his psychological writings, with psychoanalysis, and developed a Freudian-Marxist field of research.



Marx, Karl. [1859] 1961. Critique of Political Economy. In Works: Volume 3. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Berlin: Dietz.

Marx, Karl. [1888] 1958. Theses on Feuerbach. In Works: Volume 3. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Berlin: Dietz.

Marx, Karl. [1932] 1968. Economico-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. In Supplementary Volume. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Berlin: Dietz.

Marx, Karl. 1964. Marx to Engels: December 19, 1860. In Works: Volume 30 (Letters 18601864). Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Berlin: Dietz.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. [1932] 1958. The German Ideology. In Works: Volume 3. Berlin: Dietz.

Teo, Thomas. 2001. Karl Marx and Wilhelm Dilthey on the Socio-Historical Conceptualization of the Mind. In The Transformation of Psychology: Influences of 19th-Century Philosophy, Technology, and Natural Science, edited by Christopher Green, Marlene Shore, and Thomas Teo, 195218. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Vygotsky, Lev S. 1978. Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

Young, Robert M. 1996. Evolution, Biology and Psychology from a Marxist Point of View. In Psychology and Society: Radical Theory and Practice, edited by I. Parker and R. Spears, 3549. London: Pluto.

Thomas Teo

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Marx, Karl Heinrich


Karl Heinrich Marx was a nineteenth-century German intellectual whose works have had great influence on the world. Largely ignored during his lifetime, Marx's writings on economics, politics, social science, and revolution eventually led to the founding of two political movements, socialism and communism. In

addition, his views have influenced many legal philosophers.

Marx was born May 5, 1818, in Trier, in what was then the state of Prussia. His father was a successful lawyer. A bright student, Marx studied law at the University of Bonn in 1835. The following year he transferred to the University of Berlin, where he studied philosophy. While at Berlin, Marx joined a group of students and teachers who were opposed to the Prussian government. At that time citizens of Prussia enjoyed few civil liberties and were prevented from participating fully in public affairs.

Marx's political activity proved harmful for his academic career. After obtaining his doctorate in philosophy in 1841, he tried to get a teaching job. The Prussian government barred him from teaching. He then became a freelance journalist.

Following his marriage to Jenny von Westphalen in 1843, Marx moved to Paris. In 1845 he moved to Brussels, where he remained until 1848. In 1848 he returned to Germany to become the editor of a radical paper in Cologne. He used the newspaper to rail against the Prussian government, and he encouraged the German Revolution of 1848, which failed to topple the regime.

During the days leading up to the revolution, Marx first articulated his political and historical theories. In the Communist Manifesto (1848), a pamphlet written with his friend Friedrich Engels, Marx argued that history is a series of conflicts between economic classes. He predicted that the ruling middle class would be overthrown by the working class, and a classless society would be created. This classless society would be characterized by the public ownership of all means of economic production. Marx and Engels had previously written The German Ideology (1845–46), a seven-hundred-page book that dealt in more philosophic terms with economics and politics.

Marx's participation in the failed revolution forced him to flee Germany. In 1849 he settled in London, where he remained for the rest of his life. He and his family lived in abject poverty. He refused to work, except for a stint as a political reporter for the New York Tribune. Instead, he spent his time researching at the British Museum library. Friends contributed to his support, especially Engels, who owned a textile manufacturing plant in England. In 1864 Marx founded the International Workingmen's Association, a group dedicated to preparing the way for a socialist revolution. He died in London on March 14, 1883.

Marx spent most of his life in England working on Das Kapital (Capital). The first volume was published in 1867, the second and third volumes after his death. He considered Das Kapital to be his major work, because it described the functioning of industrial capitalism. Marx saw capitalism as an efficient way of producing wealth, but also saw a fatal flaw in how this wealth was distributed: those who owned the means of production retained most of the wealth, whereas the working class had to get by on fluctuating wages. Marx argued that this inequality would eventually lead the working class to revolt.

Marx's writings had a great effect on the socialist and Communist revolutionary movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He cast his theories as historically inevitable, providing revolutionaries with a way of explaining the world that appeared to be scientific.

Marxist ideas became the core intellectual tradition for Communist countries in the twentieth century. Social science, history, and philosophy were shaped by his views. U.S. intellectuals generally ignored Marxism until the 1960s, in part because many people believed that it was a subversive political doctrine.

In law, the field of Marxist jurisprudence has grown significantly. A Marxist analysis of law places more importance on the power of economic forces in society rather than on the concept of an impartial, neutral rule of law. Marxists believe that the material forces of a society and those that control these forces shape the society's legal system.

further readings

Brettschneider, Corey. 1998. "From Liberalism to the End of Juridical Language: An Examination of Marx's Early Jurisprudence. Studies in Law, Politics, and Society 18 (annual): 173–215.

Inverarity, James M., Pat Lauderdale, and Barry C. Feld. 1983. Law and Society: Sociological Perspectives on Criminal Law. Boston: Little, Brown.


Cold War; Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich; Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich; Stalin, Joseph.

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Marx, Karl

Karl Marx, 1818–83, German social philosopher, the chief theorist of modern socialism and communism.

Early Life

Marx's father, a lawyer, converted from Judaism to Lutheranism in 1824. Marx studied law at Bonn and Berlin, but became interested in philosophy and took a Ph.D. degree at Jena (1841). He early rejected the idealism of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and turned toward materialism, partly through the influence of Ludwig Feuerbach and Moses Hess.

Early Work

In 1842 he became editor of the Rheinische Zeitung, but his demands for radical reforms led to its suppression in 1843. He then went to Paris, where he began his lifelong association with Friedrich Engels. At this time Marx became a socialist. He devoured the works of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, the comte de Saint-Simon, and many others. Antagonized by the individualistic radicalism of Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Marx attacked him in The Poverty of Philosophy (1847, tr. 1910), an early attempt to systematize his own thought. In this period also he wrote, with Engels, The German Ideology (tr. 1933), which provided an exposition of his dialectical materialism. Breaking with the tradition of justifying social reform by appeal to natural rights, he invoked "inevitable" laws of history to predict the eventual triumph of the working class.

Later Work and Life

In 1847 Marx joined the Communist League and with Engels wrote for it the famous Communist Manifesto (1848), which strikingly expressed his general view of the class struggle. The failure of the revolutions of 1848 convinced Marx of the need to stimulate the consciousness and solidarity of the working class through the founding of open revolutionary parties. Exiled from most continental centers, he settled permanently in London in 1849. He lived in poverty, made more bitter by his own chronic illness and the death of several of his children. At times he was able to earn funds as a correspondent for the New York Tribune, but he was continually dependent on Engels for financial aid. Nonetheless, he pursued research in the British Museum and continued to write steadily.

In 1864 Marx helped to found the International Workingmen's Association. Through this First International and through the work of Ferdinand Lassalle and others, Marx's ideas began to gain primacy in European socialist and radical thought. This primacy was greatly furthered with the publication of the first volume of Das Kapital (Vol. I, 1867, tr. 1886; Vol. II–III, ed. by Engels, 1885–94; tr. 1907–9). The manuscript for the fourth volume was edited by Karl Kautsky and published as Theorien über den Mehrwert (3 parts, 1905–10; tr. of 1st part, A History of Economic Theories, 1952). A monumental work, Das Kapital provided a thorough exposition of Marxism and became the foundation of international socialism.

As Marx's reputation spread, so too did public fear of him. He insisted on authoritarian sway within the International, and finally, after controversy with Mikhail Bakunin, virtually destroyed the International for fear of losing control over its direction. He remained the prophet of socialism and was often consulted by the various socialist party leaders. His role was frequently that of urging more hard-minded policies, further removed from bourgeois embellishments; The Gotha Program (1891, tr. 1922), a critique, illustrates this position. The complexity and vituperation of this polemic characterize much of Marx's prose. In his last years Marx's great intellectual vigor continued unabated. The importance of his dialectical method and of his theories goes far beyond their immense political influence; many scholars consider him a great economic theoretician and the founder of economic history and sociology.


There are many translations and editions of Marx's best-known works and of his and Engels's selected correspondence. See the Collected Works of Marx and Engels (40 vol., 1975–83). The standard biography of Marx is that by F. Mehring (tr. 1935); other notable works include those by O. Rühle (tr. 1929), E. H. Carr (1938), C. J. S. Sprigge (1938), K. Korsch (1939), and I. Berlin (4d ed. 1978). Recent biographies include those by R. Payne (1968), D. McLellan (1973), P. Singer (1980), A. Wood (1985), F. Wheen (2000), and J. Sperber (2013). See also bibliography under Marxism.

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Marx, Karl

Marx, Karl (1818–83). German revolutionary socialist. Born in the Rhineland to Jewish parents, Marx was educated in law, history, and philosophy at the Universities of Bonn and Berlin before obtaining his doctorate on Greek philosophy at Jena in 1841. A radical young Hegelian, Marx's left-wing and atheist views ruled out a university post, and he turned to journalism, editing the liberal Rheinische Zeitung in Cologne until it was suppressed by the Prussian authorities in 1843. From then on Marx became virtually an exile, fleeing first to Paris where he began his lifelong partnership with Friedrich Engels, then to Brussels to meet workers' groups, where he and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto (1848) as a rallying call for the proletarian class to overthrow the bourgeoisie. Expelled from Brussels during the revolutionary fervour that swept through Europe in 1848, Marx returned to Cologne to edit the Neue Rheinische Zeitung during a short-lived period of democracy. In 1849 he was tried for sedition, and though found not guilty, was exiled once more, making his home in London, where he stayed for the rest of his life, studying and writing in the British Museum, and living off Engels's generous allowances. Apart from his involvement with the First International—the International Working Men's Association—in which he took the leading part from its inception in 1864 until its ignominious demise in 1872 because of his struggle against the anarcho-communist Michael Bakunin, Marx's entire bequest to the communist movement consisted of writing. His most important book was Capital in which he set out to expose the flaws in classical political economy by showing how capitalism was not a neutral economic system, founded on timeless laws of supply and demand, but a highly exploitative system, characterized by contradictions that would eventually undermine and destroy it. A new era of socialism—the dictatorship of the proletariat—would be ushered in, followed by communism—a stateless, egalitarian, and co-operative society, founded on the principle of providing for everyone according to their needs, not their wealth.

Marx's practical influence has of course been vast, in the establishment of communist regimes in eastern Europe, east Asia, and elsewhere during the 20th cent. However, the demise of communism in eastern Europe suggests that the enduring influence of Marx may lie more in theoretical terms—i. e. in his seminal contribution to our understanding of society as a system of relationships, ultimately reflecting its economic substructure (i. e. ‘mode of production’). Marx as a sociologist may be of longer-lasting significance than Marx as a revolutionary.

Tim S. Gray

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JOHN CANNON. "Marx, Karl." The Oxford Companion to British History. 2002. 26 May. 2016 <>.

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Marx, Karl Heinrich

Marx, Karl Heinrich (1818–83) German social philosopher, political theorist, and founder (with Friedrich Engels) of international communism. He produced his own philosophical approach of dialectical materialism. He proclaimed that religion was “the opium of the people” and in The German Ideology (1845–46), written with Engels, described the “inevitable laws” of history. In Brussels, he joined the Communist League and wrote with Engels the epoch-making Communist Manifesto (1848). Marx took part in the revolutionary movements in France and Germany, then went to London (1849), where he lived until his death. His work at the British Museum produced a stream of writings, including Das Kapital (3 vols, 1867, 1885, 1894; the last two edited by Engels), which became the ‘Bible of the working class’. The International Workingmen's Association (the First International) formed in 1864, and Marx became its leading spirit. His expulsion of Bakunin from the Association in 1872 led to its collapse. Marx was one of the most important political theorists of modern times. See also Marxism

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Marx, Karl

Marx, Karl (1818–83). German social and political theorist. He advocated a form of humanism and is widely regarded as an important critic of religion, although he himself attached little importance to this aspect of his thought. Marx was primarily interested in religious life as a symptom of a more general self-estranged and unfulfilled human existence. Marx thus extended the Feuerbachian critique of religion into a more general critique of society by extending analogically the idea that God is alienated human nature into a general theory of social alienation.

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JOHN BOWKER. "Marx, Karl." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. 1997. 26 May. 2016 <>.

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Marx, Karl Heinrich


(b. Trier, Germany, 5 May 1818; d. London, England, 14 March 1883)


For a complete study of his life and works, see Supplement.

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