Marx, Karl

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(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

Marx, Karl

views updated May 29 2018

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.

Marx, Karl

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marx, engels, and marxism
early years
politics and critique, 1845–1850
the international dimension, 1851–1883
last years and heritage

MARX, KARL (1818–1883), German social and political theorist.

Karl Marx is recognized as one of the most influential social and political thinkers of all time and possibly the first thinker of nonreligious significance to become a truly global influence. He has been known since the late 1880s as the eponymous founder of Marxism, a doctrine of revolutionary communism. In one form or another, it has been supported by and has held sway over considerable portions of the world's population. Great political leaders such as Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924), Joseph Stalin (1879), Mao Tse-tung (1893–1976), and Ho Chi Minh (1890–1969) have attributed their success to the inspiration they derived from his works and from those of his lifelong friend and colleague, Friedrich Engels (1820–1895).

marx, engels, and marxism

Initially, Marx lived a life of considerable intellectual and personal obscurity. Both his fame and his notoriety were confined to narrow circles, even when he became known (briefly) in the early 1870s as the Red Terror Doctor. The books and pamphlets he published in his own lifetime divide roughly equally between political polemic against rival socialists (mostly long forgotten) and an astoundingly grandiose project: a savage critique of capitalist commodity production as a globalizing force, based on historical investigation and a unique philosophical insight. His overtly political activities were confined to editorial work on short-lived newspapers and international "correspondence committees," although during the revolutionary events of 1848 he addressed public meetings in Germany. For many years he also worked as an international journalist, commenting on political events and issues. Throughout his life, he promoted socialist political principles in contemporary politics, whether revolutionary or electoral, but he was never the leader of an organized movement or party as such, and indeed was said to have denied late in life that he had ever been a Marxist.

From late 1844 until his death, Marx was shadowed by Engels, who shared his socialist commitments and complemented his relentless analytical and satirical skills with an easier, synthesizing mode of writing and more accessible writing style. Engels was Marx's first biographer and bibliographer and his only significant collaborator, although they coauthored only three important works. The issue of authorship and interpretation has become more important in retrospect than it was in their lifetimes, when they had little visibility and were generally grateful for what attention they got.

Engels was also the biographer of their partnership, and from 1859 onward he framed his summary accounts of Marx's work, methods, and importance in this authoritative way. Moreover, after Marx's death, Engels's works, particularly those of the late 1870s through the mid-1890s, acquired far more fame and readership in socialist circles than those by Marx alone. However, after Engels's death, a certain skepticism concerning the relationship between Engels's popularizing works, which were avowedly based on Marx's ideas, and the original (and updated) import of Marx's published and unpublished writings began to emerge. This textual and scholarly work continues, and the projected complete works of the two will run to approximately 130 double volumes (printed text in the original languages with accompanying scholarly commentary) and is expected to be complete in the early decades of the twenty-first century.

In the decades between the death of Engels and World War I, Marxists became the most intellectually influential tendency within the broad socialist movement in continental Europe. This was largely based on the jointly written Communist Manifesto (1848), and on Engels's works, especially Anti-Dühring (1878) and Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880), which provided an apparently authoritative point of access to Marx's thought. Engels's works were generally perceived to be less challenging and more suited to political agitation than Marx's more elaborately historical and philosophically analytical works, such as A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), Capital, volume 1 (1867), and even The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), a political broadside against a highly visible dictator.

Engels's German-language works went through numerous editions, reprintings, and translations and in general reached far more readers than Marx did in his individually authored works. Capital, volume 1, though, eventually acquired minor fame as a (generally unread) classic. Even Marx's English-language lectures, posthumously published as Value [or Wages], Price, and Profit (1898), never had the circulation, fame, and cachet of Engels's works, through which the concepts of a materialist interpretation of history, dialectics, and scientific socialism became a defining catechism of what it means to be Marxist.

Marx became something of a legend after his death, particularly in relation to the intellectual and political development of Marxism in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is thus of profound importance in examining his actual life, works, and career that the legend should not be read back into any scholarly consideration of the books and manuscripts that have been preserved, unless a clear link between Marx's thought and events following his death can be established. It is possible, however, to undertake this historical task and thus renew Marx as an intellectual figure in social, political, economic, historical, and philosophical studies, particularly since far more of his work is available in reliable editions in the twenty-first century than was ever the case in the past.

This renewal is possible for political reasons. More than one hundred years have passed since the heyday of Marxism in Europe, and the particular kind of mass working-class politics associated with it is now attenuated. More importantly, enough time has passed since Soviet communism imploded that its claim of descent from Engels and Marx via Lenin and Stalin looks far less threatening and historically less plausible. Marxist and anti-Marxist political framing has dogged all assessments of Marx and has interfered with earlier scholarly presentation and assessment of his ideas. Moreover, the ways that his ideas influenced mass politics, particularly after his death, have been hagiographically recounted and politically demonized. The irony is that in his lifetime Marx courted controversy and sought mass adherence to his views (although not under his own direction), yet when these things arrived in his name, their relationship to his actual ideas and ambitions was highly questionable.

early years

Karl Marx was born into a Jewish family in Trier, in Rhenish Prussia. His father was a lawyer and converted Lutheran and his mother came from a rabbinical background, although Karl's upbringing was not unduly religious in any way and the family ambience is generally portrayed as one of Enlightenment liberalism. This outlook derives from moderates in the French Revolution, who favored individual rights, limited government, representative institutions, middle-class suffrage, free trade, and religious disestablishment. The Napoleonic regime introduced an element of this political ethos into the Rhineland, and the incorporation of the region into the much more authoritarian Kingdom of Prussia after 1815 was a blow to local liberals.

Marx had an unremarkable classical education and was sent to university, first to Bonn in 1835 and then Berlin in 1836 after some student scrapes. He was supposed to study law and follow a professional career but instead became interested in liberal, activist politics, albeit of a rather intellectual sort. During this period, he was deeply in love with Jenny von Westphalen (1814–1881), a childhood sweetheart from a family that was more aristocratic than the Marxes but still liberal and more intellectually adventurous.

Marx's initial political engagement was with the Young Hegelians, a movement based in liberal university faculties. Although it had an obvious intellectual appeal given his interests in history and philosophy (as he explains in his autobiographical sketch of 1859 in the preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy), the political context for this movement—authoritarian, semifeudal, and highly militarized Prussia—may be less obvious to the modern observer. Prussia had no elected representative institutions; no constitutional guarantees of rights to free speech, expression, or assembly; and the regime employed an apparatus of police spies, detention, deportation, and harassment of anyone deemed a radical. In these circumstances, political activism—and even discussion of the commonplace elements of democracy or peaceful liberalizing change—were

dangerous enterprises, and the universities were always under surveillance. In the absence of any commitment to academic freedom, the royal government felt empowered to intervene in academic appointments, particularly those in philosophy and made it a duty for all to safeguard the supposed sureties of Christian belief from which the monarchy claimed a mandate to rule.

Crucially at issue in Prussia in the 1830s was the mammoth philosophical legacy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) and its interpretation of Christian doctrine; this was a public political matter, since religion was not merely a private matter for individuals. Hegel (in his view and in the view of his disciples) had produced vast works of philosophical synthesis, reconciling history, religion, philosophy, science, logic, aesthetics, and politics with reason and the progressive development of human freedom. However, the relationship between his highly ambiguous writings on the one hand and contemporary politics and doctrinal Christianity on the other was difficult to discern, and two schools of interpretation developed: Old Hegelians, emphasizing the conservative side (i.e. alignment with the Prussian monarchy and its claimed relationship to the established churches), and Young Hegelians, emphasizing a further political development in history toward liberalism in politics, including skepticism about supernatural phenomena in general and Christianity in particular.

Characteristically, Marx took his Young Hegelian analysis into a recondite doctoral dissertation on the ancient Greek philosophies of Democritus and Epicurus (submitted by mail to the University of Jena in 1841), but his connections with radical professors cost him the chance of a university post. He obtained a job in journalism on a liberal Rhine-land paper in Cologne, and then unexpectedly became its editor in 1842. This coincided with a period of nervous and short-lived governmental liberalization, but the paper was suppressed in March 1843, after which Marx ended his long engagement and got married.

Although little noticed at the time, Marx's early journalism contains the key to all his later work. On the one hand, he was a recognizable liberal in the French revolutionary tradition, writing to defend freedom of the press and religion within secular institutions (including civil marriage and divorce), all of which were dangerous, radical ideas in the Prussian context. On the other hand, he was highly radical compared with most liberals in that he highlighted economic issues in a class-structured way, suggesting that a reformed government should intervene and not leave poverty and working conditions simply to the market and individual enterprise or charity. This angle was identified as socialist or communist (terms that were largely interchangeable at the time) and was vilified as foreign (the ideas were generally of recent French currency) and incipiently revolutionary (middle-class liberals feared that the working classes were a threat to their property, investments, and livelihoods). Marx had absorbed some of this outlook from other associates on the Rheinische Zeitung, including Moses Hess (1812–1875), who praised him at the time as, "Rousseau, Voltaire, Holbach, Lessing, Heine, and Hegel fused into one person" (quoted in McLellan, p. 47).

As Marx writes in his autobiographical sketch, he suffered "the embarrassment of having to discuss so-called material interests," by which he meant matters of economic fact and theory (Later Political Writings, pp. 158–159). While in the Rhineland, he was concerned with the plight of vineyard workers when the markets failed and with peasants whose landlords were removing their traditional rights by legal means. But he was also aware of the increasing industrialization of other areas in Europe (notably France and Belgium), where concentrations of disadvantaged workers (in many instances German émigrés) had formed. Allying himself with other intellectuals of similar views, first in Paris and then in Brussels, he began to publish the first installments of what was for him an important political project: the critical destruction of Old Hegelian political conservatism and the Young Hegelian defense of historical change, albeit in a highly unusual way. Building on the historical critique of Christianity unwittingly accomplished by David Friedrich Strauss (1808–1874) and the philosophical critique of religion accomplished by Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–1872), both of whom were driven from German intellectual life as a result, Marx embarked on a demystification of Hegel's philosophical system. The goal was to turn the (necessarily covert) world of Prussian politics around, away from conservative reaction and Christian orthodoxy, toward an enlightened world of liberal democracy and rationalistic atheism.

Although any number of Young Hegelians could have appreciated this project, it had two further dimensions that were Marx's own, or were at least not widely shared at that point: the first was a commitment to the class politics of socialism or communism, through which mankind was to be united in a non-exploitative society where production and consumption would be shared according to needs and abilities; the second was a commitment to working-class activism as a practical matter, promoting self-determination and suffrage for the vast unpropertied majority of men (political rights for women was a further radicalism not generally discussed in these circles). Both of these went well beyond the interests of contemporary middle-class liberals, and the commitment to hands-on activism among the working classes was alien to the intellectualized university politics of most Young Hegelians. Marx's work and activities at the time represented, in theory at least, an ambitious union of philosophy and politics together with a vision of the good society. This recouped the achievements of previous figures of the liberalizing Enlightenment, whether materialists and empiricists or idealists and rationalists, and promised to give it overwhelming political might. In his short work A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right: Introduction (1844) Marx (using the French socialist term proletariat, meaning "urban working class") announced that the philosophy of freedom and the emancipation of the proletariat must mutually merge.

politics and critique, 1845–1850

Having moved to the more liberal political climate of Brussels, Marx (in conjunction, from time to time, with Engels) worked with both the middle-class liberal Democratic Association and a communist group that was made up mostly of German émigrés, both of which were loosely allied to similar associations in France, England, and elsewhere. Marx published his short book The Poverty of Philosophy in French in 1847, attacking the French socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and broadening the scope of his critique of the forms of socialism that he considered economically naïve and out of touch with working-class political organizations. Throughout his life, these remained common points of self-created division between Marx and other socialists, and he had few stable political associates during his career other than Engels. However, during this period he and Engels were asked by the nascent Communist League to draft a defining document for international socialism, and the resulting pamphlet, The Communist Manifesto, was accepted at a conference in London in late 1847.

More than any other document, The Communist Manifesto conveys the essence of Marx's outlook on history, politics, and society. Although Engels played a major role in drafting it, it makes no mention of the core concepts that he later used to define Marxism: dialectic, materialism, determinism, metaphysics, idealism, interaction, contradiction, and reflection, and although the work was written to satisfy an executive committee and may thus contain an element of compromise and pastiche, little of its content could count as radically inconsistent with Marx's more detailed and thorough later writings. The Communist Manifesto is divided into four sections. The first is a magnificently sweeping historical account of the development of industrial production and commercial relations by the European "bourgeoisie" (again a French term, meaning the manufacturing and trading classes). As this broad social movement progresses, it disposes of feudal relations and structures, forces the peasantry to seek work as wage laborers, and spreads beyond Europe, destroying older cultures and creating exploited colonies. Predicting ever-worsening economic crises of overproduction and ever-increasing exploitation and misery for the proletariat, The Communist Manifesto maintains that the social structure of industrial societies will simplify into two great opposing classes and that the proletariat will gain consciousness of itself politically as a vast majority. A more or less veiled civil war between these two classes will break out openly into revolutionary conflict and socialists will eventually establish a classless society that will transcend national borders.

The second section explains the relationship between proletarians and communists, stating that they have identical interests but that communists have a role in unmasking bourgeois hypocrisy. In that way, the document claims, communists are more theoretically advanced than most workers but have no sectarian, partisan principles other than those of the workers' movement itself. Proletarian revolution will win "victory for democracy" while also mandating "despotic incursions into the rights of private property," since that is where exploitation originates. The section closes with a ten-point checklist of typical communist demands (most of which were institutionalized in the twentieth century by social democratic regimes).

The third section is an analytical and critical review of other popular theories of socialism and communism of the time, establishing clear points of differentiation from the views and methods of the Communist League, and the fourth section is a more detailed (and obviously ephemeral) statement of contemporary tactics in various countries such as France, Switzerland, Poland, and Germany. The Communist Manifesto promises a society in which "the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all" and closes with the clarion call, "Proletarians of all countries unite!" (Later Political Writings, pp. 19, 30; emphasis in original).

The Communist Manifesto was printed in London in early 1848 and distributed just as revolution broke out in Paris and then spread swiftly to other European capitals. Conservative monarchies and aristocratic establishments were routed and democratic assemblies inaugurated throughout the Continent. Marx was welcomed into France by liberal revolutionaries of his acquaintance, and he journeyed from there to Cologne when revolution spread to the Rhineland. With others, he started a new version of his former liberal newspaper, and for the duration of the revolution he urged the democratic process forward, particularly on economic issues and working-class political participation, even making some speeches. As the revolutionary democrats were rolled back by conservative forces, and reaction and repression became the order of the day, he fled with his family (he and his wife now had two daughters) to London, as did many other political refugees. Engels followed and set himself up in Manchester with a job at one of his father's factories. For the remainder of what became a lifetime exile for the two of them, Engels supported the Marx family (another daughter was born in London; three other children, a daughter and two sons, did not survive beyond infancy or childhood).

the international dimension, 1851–1883

Writing almost always in German for an audience back in Germany (when he could reach them through the censorship) and in exile all over Europe and in America, Marx's thought and politics were necessarily international but also focused primarily on a German target group except in rare cases when translations could be arranged. His pamphlets The Class Struggles in France, 1848–1850 (1850), The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), and The Cologne Communist Trial (1853) were typical of his interest in saving something of the spirit of 1848 while pouring scorn on the conservative and reactionary political forces aligned with the rich, powerful, and well armed. Notably, he dismissed his former communist political associates as "jackasses," swearing he would never involve himself in partisan struggle again.

With Engels's help, Marx had a stop-gap career as an English-language journalist for the New York Tribune and various encyclopedias, but this was never enough to pay the bills and he resented the time it took away from what he defined as his life-work and major contribution to the socialist struggle: a critique of the categories of political economy. This multi-volume project went through numerous changes of plan, but the main thrust remained clear. Marx aimed to rewrite the economics of his day, known as political economy, by producing a new account of the production, consumption, distribution, and exchange of goods and services in any commodified and industrialized society where the capitalist mode of production prevails. He published a short installment in 1859 (A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy) and the first volume (Capital) in 1867, leaving a vast mountain of notebooks, manuscript drafts and critical commentary behind at his death.

Marx's targets were the political economists Adam Smith (1723–1790) and David Ricardo (1772–1823), together with their numerous precursors and followers. Their work differs somewhat from that of later marginalist economics of the 1870s onward, which defines value as market prices that result from calculations of utility "at the margin" of any individual's preferences to consume goods and services. The methods of the political economists were more philosophical than mathematical, and in particular they considered value itself (rather than merely numerical prices) to be the key to understanding and (minimally) directing the economies of their day. Value, they hypothesized, must rest in some way on labor, and Marx rightly argued that their ideas on this point were analytically inconsistent. Moreover he maintained that their work was politically biased toward the interests of the propertied classes and that their theory made the obvious exploitation of the working classes disappear as a (supposedly) fair exchange. Thus Marx accepted much of the project and methodology of the political economists while rejecting what he took to be their politics and certain details of their theories.

Marx's critique of political economy led rigorously to quite different political conclusions, namely that capitalism could not be a self-sustaining system but would instead be subject to crises of increasing severity; that it would proletarianize the middle classes rather than remedy the exploitation of the workers; and that it would thus represent an increasingly pale alternative to the obvious attractions that socialism would hold for the vast

majority. His solution to the question of value was to argue that human labor time was itself (in its abstract or generic form) the origin of value for mass-produced commodities and thus ultimately the regulator of their exchange ratios (as measured by their long-term price levels relative to each other). However, the system as a whole was not one of equal exchange between, for example, wages and labor time, because wages paid only for the labor time required to purchase subsistence goods and services to maintain the worker. He posited that human labor power has a unique property: it can produce more output in terms of labor time than is required for its own renewal and subsistence, thus allowing capitalists (who pay wages) to collect a surplus, from which their profits derive.

At a stroke, Marx had (apparently) solved a longstanding puzzle and generated a rigorous theory of exploitation that established it as a fact. Although his reasoning has since been faulted, his theory was bypassed rather than refuted. After the 1870s, economists reoriented their profession around an acceptance of monetary prices as the principal reality in their increasingly mathematical studies, rather than treating prices as something epiphenomenal to value. For Marxists, however, acceptance of the Marxist economics in Capital was doctrinal, although it was not of much political value other than as a (supposed) proof that capitalism was incontrovertibly exploitative and doomed to collapse.

Marx was instrumental in founding the International Working Men's Association in 1864 as a correspondence committee and an organ of socialist publicity; this organization was generally known as "The International" and later "The First International." Perhaps predictably, this kind of organization, which was by definition remote from national politics and prone to doctrinal factions, could never be rated a complete success, although it did give encouragement to many individuals and groups. Through it, socialists struggled together across national boundaries to get trade unions and working-class political parties properly represented and legally defended within the democratizing structures of industrial capitalist nations. Marx withdrew from the organization after bitter battles with anarchists and others whom he considered politically naïve and intellectually retarded. Perhaps his swan song was the (English-language) address to the International, published as The Civil War in France (1871), in which he defended and perhaps romanticized the struggles of ordinary Parisians against conservative forces. The French counter-revolution from the countryside was backed by the occupying Prussians, and neither group wanted any communal experiments in mass democracy and cooperative economic management. The communards were massacred in their thousands, and Marx's testimony still makes moving reading, although at the time he was vilified in the anglo-phone press for memorializing the communards.

last years and heritage

Marx's later years were spent largely in ill health and unhappiness, working on the later volumes of his unfinished masterpiece, Capital, itself a truncated version of his original scheme from the 1850s. The inspiration for Capital, however, dates all the way back to his earliest journalism in alliance with liberals, his relentless insistence on the importance of economic structures in constraining and empowering political change, and his conviction that collective, cooperative sharing of social resources through democratic means was compatible with the globalization of modern industry. Although a good deal of this vision remains in the posthumously established variations of Marxism that endure into the twenty-first century, they also contain, of necessity, many tenets and tactics that derive from other minds. Whether or not these adaptations of Marx's work are faithful is a matter for scholarly investigation and individual judgment.

See alsoCommunism; Engels, Friedrich; First International; Germany; Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich; Labor Movements; Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph; Socialism; Young Hegelians.


Primary Sources

Marx, Karl. Early Political Writings. Edited and translated by Joseph O'Malley and Richard A. Davis. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1994.

——. Later Political Writings. Edited and translated by Terrell Carver. New York, 1996.

Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels. Collected Works. 50 vols. London, 1975–2004.

Secondary Sources

Berlin, Isaiah. Karl Marx: His Life and Environment. 5th ed. New York, 2002.

Callinicos, Alex. The Revolutionary Ideas of Karl Marx. 2nd ed. London, 1995.

Carver, Terrell. The Postmodern Marx. Manchester, U.K., and University Park, Pa., 1998.

Carver, Terrell, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Marx. New York and Cambridge, U.K., 1991.

Cohen, G. A. Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence. Princeton, N.J., 1978.

Fine, Ben. Marx's Capital. 3rd ed. Basingstoke, U.K., 1989.

Graham, Keith. Karl Marx Our Contemporary: Social Theory for a Post-Leninist World. New York, 1992.

Kitching, Gavin. Karl Marx and the Philosophy of Praxis. London, 1988.

McLellan, David. Karl Marx: His Life and Thought. 2nd ed. Glasgow and New York, 1986.

Wheen, Francis. Karl Marx: A Life. London, 2000.

Wolff, Jonathan. Why Read Marx Today? Oxford, U.K., and New York, 2002.

Terrell Carver

Marx, Karl

views updated May 18 2018

Karl Marx

Excerpt from The Communist Manifesto

Published in 1848; translation from
German into English by Helen Macfarlane
published in
The Red Republican, June–November 1850

"Differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive social validity for the working class."

Whether you agree with it or detest its message, there is little doubt that The Communist Manifesto is one of the most influential documents produced during the Industrial Revolution. It is the core document of communism, a form of government in which all the people own property, including both land and capital, in common. The tension between communisim and capitalist democracy was at the heart of the forty-five-year-long Cold War (1945–90) between the United States and the Soviet Union (now the Russian Federation). Communism, and the fight against it, was one of the major features of the twentieth century throughout the industrialized world, as well as in the developing countries of Africa and Asia.

When it was implemented in Russia as a result of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, communism resulted in a dictatorship that seemed in most respects much worse than the conditions that inspired it. Individual political freedoms were crushed completely, and the economic hardships of workers in communist countries were far worse than their counterparts in countries like the United States, which allowed private property and limited regulation of businesses. In 1991, however, Russia ceased being governed by communists, as non-communists seized power peacefully in the wake of an economic crisis. The change in government seemed to signal the collapse of the views of German philosopher Karl Marx (1818–1883) as well.

In the United States, Marx and his philosophy were feared and detested for most of the twentieth century. For forty-six years following World War II (1939–45), the United States was in the forefront of an international struggle between communism and capitalism (the system of private ownership of business). In the 1950s, Americans could lose their jobs for belonging to the Communist Party in the United States because such membership was viewed as unpatriotic, and communism was seen as the enemy of everything Americans held dear, including private property and religious beliefs. In communist countries, even worse fates, such as execution or deportation to remote labor camps, befell people who advocated an end to communism in favor of capitalism.

The ideas behind communism were an important part of the Industrial Revolution, the period when machines and factories were being introduced, changing the nature of work for millions of people. The Communist Manifesto was written in 1848, a time of widespread unrest in Europe. As Marx described in the document, crowded cities, filled with people working in factories, were characteristic of the Industrial Revolution. So too was the fact that many of these workers had barely enough money to live on. Loss of a job meant loss of food and housing, almost overnight. Even in the twenty-first century, workers living in the developing countries of Asia and Africa, which do not have industries to generate wealth, often experience the same desperate conditions that were typical of Europe and the United States in the period between 1850 and 1900. It is perhaps not so surprising that the message of Marx still has appeal in these countries.

Things to remember while reading the excerpt from The Communist Manifesto:

  • The Communist Manifesto was written at the beginning of 1848. It was a year in Europe when industrial workers staged riots and revolutions in several cities, including Paris, France; Vienna, Austria; and Berlin, Germany. Marx was writing his manifesto (a statement of principles or intentions) as a political document designed to attract members to his political party, called the Communist League, one of many political parties competing for support from workers.
  • For the most part, the economies of Europe in the 1840s were quite different from today. Wealthy individuals typically owned one modest-size factory. Large companies with factories in many countries were unknown. Many companies were family owned, whereas in the twenty-first century, industrial enterprises have many owners who have invested in a corporation, which is a kind of artificial person that the law recognizes as the owner of property. Thus, when Marx writes about the bourgeoisie (pronounced bourzh-wah-ZEE), he is writing about a specific and fairly large number of individuals and families who owned factories and other related enterprises and who worked together politically to try to make sure governments passed laws that were in their interest. Marx saw politics as a struggle between these property-owning individuals and the workers they hired, whom he called the proletariat.
  • Marx goes to some length to describe how the class of factory owners—the bourgeoisie—had already carried out a revolution of their own. That revolution was what we call the Industrial Revolution, the rise of large factories and the disappearance of small workshops owned by skilled workers, such as weavers and blacksmiths. The Industrial Revolution also involved the migration of millions of people from the countryside and small towns to big cities where the new factories were located. Marx said people should not fear revolution since revolutions were natural in the course of history, and a communist revolution would be both natural and the inevitable result of the Industrial Revolution.

Excerpt from The Communist Manifesto

A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich [Prince Klemens von Metternich (1773–1859), political leader of Austria] and Guizot, [François Guizot (1787–1874), leader of France]: French Radicals and German police-spies.

A political and economic system in which property is owned by the state.
Get rid of.
Ruler of Russia.

Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?


Two things result from this fact:

  1. Communism is already acknowledged by all European powers to be itself a power.
  2. It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the spectre of communism with a manifesto of the party itself.
A written declaration of principles and objectives.

To this end, Communists of various nationalities have assembled in London and sketched the following manifesto, to be published in the English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish languages.

Bourgeois and Proletarians

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman , in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

Ancient Roman aristocrat.
Ancient Roman commoner.
Landless peasant.

In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations.

Underlings; subordinates.
Those who work under a skilled professional to learn a trade.

The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms . It hasbut established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.

Middle class.

Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other—bourgeoisie and proletariat.

Working class.

From the serfs of the Middle Ages sprang the chartered burghers of the earliest towns. From these burgesses the first elements of the bourgeoisie were developed.

Town representatives.

The discovery of America, the rounding of the Cape, opened up fresh ground for the rising bourgeoisie. The East-Indian and Chinese markets, the colonisation of America, trade with the colonies, the increase in the means of exchange and in commodities generally, gave to commerce, to navigation, to industry, an impulse never before known, and thereby, to the revolutionary element in the tottering feudal society, a rapid development.

Establishment of a colony in an unsettled land.

The feudal system of industry, in which industrial production was monopolized by closed guilds, now no longer suffices for the growing wants of the new markets. The manufacturing system took its place. The guild-masters were pushed aside by the manufacturing middle class; division of labor between the different corporate guilds vanished in the face of division of labor in each single workshop.

Association of merchants or craftspeople.

Meantime, the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising. Even manufacturers no longer sufficed. Thereupon, steam and machinery revolutionized industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, MODERN INDUSTRY; the place of the industrial middle class by industrial millionaires, the leaders of the whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeois.

Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land. This development has, in turn, reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital , and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages.

Money; resources.

We see, therefore, how the modern bourgeoisie is itself the product of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and of exchange.

Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance in that class. An oppressed class under the sway of the feudal nobility, an armed and self-governing association of medieval commune : here independent urban republic (as in Italy and Germany); there taxable "third estate" of the monarchy (as in France); afterward, in the period of manufacturing proper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy as a counterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, cornerstone of the great monarchies in general—the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of Modern Industry and of the world market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative state, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.

Forcibly dominated.
Third Estate:
People who are not clergy or aristocrats.
Political system in which a state is ruled by a monarch.

The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his "natural superiors," and has left no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment." It has drowned out the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable free-dom—Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

Torn asunder:
Ripped apart.
Considerate and courteous.

The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored 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 laborers.

The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation into a mere money relation.

The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigor in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man's activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Romanaqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former exoduses of nations and crusades.


The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify . All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned , and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind.

Become rigid
Made unholy.

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.…

The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralized the means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralization. Independent, or but loosely connected provinces, with separate interests, laws, governments, and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national class interest, one frontier, and one customs tariff.…

Gathered into a mass.

In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed—a class of laborers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labor increases capital. These laborers, who must sell themselves piecemeal , are a commodity , like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.

As in by the hour.
Something that can be bought and sold.
Ups and downs.

Owing to the extensive use of machinery, and to the division of labor, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, mostmonotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him. Hence, the cost of production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for maintenance, and for the propagation of his race. But the price of a commodity, and therefore also of labor, is equal to its cost of production. In proportion, therefore, as the repulsiveness of the work increases, the wage decreases. What is more, in proportion as the use of machinery and division of labor increases, in the same proportion the burden of toil also increases, whether by prolongation of the working hours, by the increase of the work exacted in a given time, or by increased speed of machinery, etc.


Modern Industry has converted the little workshop of the patriarchal master into the great factory of the industrial capitalist . Masses of laborers, crowded into the factory, are organized like soldiers. As privates of the industrial army, they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois state; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooker, and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself. The more openly this despotism proclaims gain to be its end and aim, the more petty, the more hateful and the more embittering it is.

One who invests a large amount of money in a business.

The less the skill and exertion of strength implied in manual labor, in other words, the more modern industry becomes developed, the more is the labor of men superseded by that of women. Differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive social validity for the working class. All are instruments of labor, more or less expensive to use, according to their age and sex.

No sooner is the exploitation of the laborer by the manufacturer, so far at an end, that he receives his wages in cash, than he is set upon by the other portion of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.…

Taken over.

But with the development of industry, the proletariat not only increases in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows, and it feels that strength more. The various interests and conditions of life within the ranks of the proletariat are more and more equalized, in proportion as machinery obliterates all distinctions of labor, and nearly everywhere reduces wages to the same low level. The growing competition among the bourgeois, and the resulting commercial crises, make the wages of the workers ever more fluctuating. The increasing improvement of machinery, evermore rapidly developing, makes their livelihood more and more precarious ; the collisions between individual workmen and individual bourgeois take more and more the character of collisions between two classes. Thereupon, the workers begin to form combinations [trade unions] against the bourgeois; they club together in order to keep up the rate of wages; they found permanent associations in order to make provision beforehand for these occasional revolts. Here and there, the contest breaks out into riots.…


Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a genuinely revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of Modern Industry; the proletariat is its special and essential product.

The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan , the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie, to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay, more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history. If, by chance, they are revolutionary, they are only so in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat; they thus defend not their present, but their future interests; they desert their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat.…


In the condition of the proletariat, those of old society at large are already virtually swamped. The proletarian is without property; his relation to his wife and children has no longer anything in common with the bourgeois family relations; modern industry labor, modern subjection to capital, the same in England as in France, in America as in Germany, has stripped him of every trace of national character. Law, morality, religion, are to him so many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests.…

In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole? The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties.

They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.

They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mold the proletarian movement.


The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only:

  1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality.
  2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.…

The distinguishing feature of communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few.

Officially ending a law, regulation, or practice.

In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.

What happened next …

  • The revolutions of 1848 did not succeed in overturning traditional political and economic systems; established authorities restored order. This did not deter Karl Marx and his English colleague and coauthor Friedrich Engels (1820–1895). Marx went on to write Capital, published in 1867, which was his analysis of how modern economics works, an answer to Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (1776; see entry). Marx's writing continued to inspire revolutionaries for decades, and his theories were embraced by the Communist Party of Russia, which seized power in 1917 and formed the Soviet Union.
  • Marx thought that history followed an inevitable path, and he predicted in The Communist Manifesto that everyone who was not a wealthy owner of factories would join the working class (the proletariat) until there was a violent revolution. In fact, within twenty years of the publication of The Communist Manifesto, the political picture in Europe had changed dramatically. Political parties based on the working class had begun to achieve results in reigning in some of the worst abuses of factory owners without a violent revolution. Their movement, called "social democracy," achieved widespread political power throughout Europe in the twentieth century. The "inevitable" revolution predicted by Marx did not come to pass, except in the Soviet Union in 1917, and there under circumstances very different than those envisioned by Marx.
  • Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the late-twentieth-century decision by China's leaders to encourage private business owners, the figure of Karl Marx remains revered by hundreds of thousands around the world. Many others revile him as a prophet of evil, particularly for his criticism of religion and its role in society. The idea of Marxism remained a powerful force a century and a half after The Communist Manifesto was published.

Did you know . . .

As a person, Karl Marx was impatient and sometimes disagreeable. He alienated people with his sarcastic wit and blunt way of speaking. But at the same time, he was a devoted family man. He married his childhood sweetheart, and the couple had seven children, of whom four died as infants or children. Marx was devoted to his children. Of his surviving children (all three of whom were daughters), two married French Socialist politicians who became members of Parliament. His third surviving daughter married a British labor organizer.

For more information


Berlin, Isaiah, Sir. Karl Marx: His Life and Environment. 4th ed. New York and Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1978.

Eagleton, Terry. Marx. New York: Routledge, 1999.

Marx, Karl. Capital: The Communist Manifesto and Other Writings (includes translation of The Communist Manifesto from German into English by Helen Macfarlane published in The Red Republican, June–November 1850). New York: Carlton House, 1932.

Pipes, Richard. Communism: A History. New York: Modern Library, 2001.

Marx, Karl

views updated May 17 2018

Karl Marx

Works in Biographical and Historical Context
Works in Literary Context
Works in Critical Context
Responses to Literature

BORN: 1818, Trier, Germany

DIED: 1883, London, England


GENRE: Nonfiction

The Communist Manifesto (1848)
Capital (1867, 1885, 1894)


The writings of Karl Marx have significantly influenced the course of world history over the last 150 years. Together with Friedrich Engels, he defined the modern concept of socialism, a major contribution to the wide range of new social theories developed in the nineteenth century. The principles of his social and economic theories, often called Marxism, have been applied in the social sciences and humanities, and more or less misapplied in the political arena. He was also a political activist, and his ideas inspired revolutionaries and political leaders in every part of the world. Their achievements confirm the truth—while perhaps challenging the value—of one of his most famous quotations: “Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.”

Works in Biographical and Historical Context

Family Rejection of the Historical for the Material Karl Heinrich Marx was born on May 5, 1818, in the Prussian (today German) city of Trier. His father, Heinrich, was an attorney whose outlook on life followed the ideas of Enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire. Both of Marx's parents were descended from generations of rabbis; however, since Prussia barred Jews from holding public office, Heinrich Marx chose to undergo baptism, and to baptize his son as well.

Marx got his high school education at a liberal school called the Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium. He proved adept at languages—eventually learning to read at least seven—but did poorly in history. Given that the philosophy he went on to found is sometimes known as “historical materialism,” this fact is not without irony. Graduating from school at age seventeen, Marx went on to the University of Bonn in 1835. After a year of lack-luster performance, he transferred to the University of Berlin, studying philosophy and law.

Young Hegelian In Berlin he joined the “Doctor-klub,” a group of students interested in philosophy, especially the ideas of Gottfried Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Hegel's dialectical theory views human progress as the result of a clash between opposing movements or social forces (the “thesis” and “antithesis”), which eventually fuse into a “synthesis.” The avant-garde “Young Hegelians” in this club sought to apply Hegel's theory to challenge the ruling institutions of European society, including the church.

Marx accepted the Hegelian dialectic as part of the philosophy he was developing, but rejected Hegel's belief that ideas and spiritual forces matter more than objects in the physical world. Rather than this idealist view, grounded in Christian thought, Marx maintained that human beings make their own history, influenced only by the material conditions and social formations around them. Thus, Marx characterized his emerging theory as “dialectical materialism.”

Editorship, Marriage, and Engels In 1841, Marx received his doctorate after completing a dissertation on the ancient Greek philosophers Democritus and Epicurus. Unable to obtain a teaching position, he began contributing articles to a new liberal-radical Cologne newspaper, Die Rheinische Zeitung, and soon became the paper's editor. His bold political commentary attracted great attention from the Prussian censors, who shut the paper down early in 1843.

That June, Marx married Jenny von Westphalen after a seven-year engagement. She was the daughter of a baron who had been a tutor to the young Marx. The couple moved to Paris, a socialist center with a more permissive atmosphere, where Marx went to work on a journal called the German-French Yearbook.

The publication collapsed after one issue, but through the project, Marx became acquainted with Friedrich Engels, the son of a cotton mill owner, who became his closest friend and lifelong collaborator. The two men met in the spring of 1844, and—though Marx was not at first wildly enthused with the rather brash young Engels—began working together not long thereafter.

The Communist Manifesto and Eventual State-lessness In January of 1845 Marx was expelled from Paris at the request of the Prussian government, because of two anti-Prussian essays he had published in a radical Paris newspaper. With his family, he went to Brussels, and Engels followed soon afterward. There, Marx began to organize among the working classes and wrote the books The Poverty of Philosophy (1847) and, with Engels, The German Ideology (published posthumously in 1932). The latter work is perhaps the fullest statement of Marx's materialist theory of history as determined by economic conditions.

At its congress in November of 1847, the London-based Communist League commissioned Marx and Engels to write its political program. Their statement, now known as The Communist Manifesto, was first published in pamphlet form in January of 1848. Here the theories of Marx and Engels appear in concise language with minimal jargon. The Manifesto declares that all history boils down to the struggles between classes. In the modern age, the primary class antagonism is between the oppressive “bourgeoisie,” the wealthy captains of industry, and the “proletariat,” particularly the urban poor. Marx and Engels predict that this struggle will intensify until the proletariat, organized internationally as a class, finally overthrows the bourgeoisie and builds a classless society.

The Manifesto was intended to serve as a call for rebellion, not a model for communist government. As it happened, insurrections did erupt in Europe in 1848; ironically, they were mostly led by bourgeois nationalists, not the “workers of the world,” and all were violently suppressed. Forced to leave Belgium, Marx witnessed and reported on the revolutions in France and Germany, but was expelled from both countries as the uprisings were crushed. In 1849, he took refuge in London. He lived there the rest of his life, a citizen of no country.

Capital and the Lack Thereof, Journalism, and the Study of Economics During his first years in London, Marx spent most of his time in the reading room of the British Museum, studying economics. He worked as a journalist for the New York Daily Tribune and other papers, submitting hundreds of articles (including many actually written by Engels). The pay was poor, however, and Marx was often unable to feed and clothe his family properly. Three of his children died within a few years. However, he refused to accept more lucrative work, devoting himself to his writing and revolutionary activism. Later on, he received steady financial help from Engels, who worked his way up in his father's business to support his friend.

After the tremors of 1848, Marx expected a new round of revolutions at the next economic downturn. He wrote two long pamphlets on contemporary French history, The Class Struggles in France (1850) and the trenchant Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852). His most important writings, on economics, were large in magnitude and slow to appear. He published his first Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy in 1859. Only the first volume of his magnum opus, Capital (frequently referred to by its German title, Das Kapital), appeared in his lifetime, in 1867. The second and third volumes, extensively edited by Engels, were published in 1885 and 1894.

Capital takes a systematic, scientific approach to studying the relations between capital and labor. Marx expanded on and critiqued the theories of economists such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo. His major contributions to social and economic thought—such as the theories of surplus value, alienation and exploitation of human labor, the means and relations of production, commodity fetishism, and the process by which global markets exacerbate class conflict—are all found in these volumes. His reasoning led him to the conclusion that the processes of capitalism will lead that system inevitably to its own collapse, out of which will emerge a socialist era.

The First International: Building Consciousness Marx was also actively engaged in bringing about that socialist era through the International Working Men's Association, or the First International. From its inception in 1864, he assumed a leading role in this coalition of workers' organizations from numerous countries and various political ideologies. Marx always maintained that a successful socialist revolution could only come at the right historical moment, after the workers had gradually achieved sufficient consciousness of their exploitation and their class solidarity. He opposed more militant factions, such as the anarchists led by Mikhail Bakunin, and energetically sought to establish international connections and consensus at the organization's annual congresses. The movement grew to a peak membership of eight hundred thousand by the end of the 1860s but which declined when its general council moved from London to New York in 1872.

Ill health and depression reduced Marx's productivity in the last ten years of his life. His wife died in 1881, and his eldest daughter in January of 1883. He himself passed away only two months later. Thus, he did not survive to experience the triumph of his ideas among European democratic mass parties in the 1880s and 1890s. A great many of his works, including the final two volumes of Capital, were published posthumously, some as late as 1941.

Works in Literary Context

Some of the major influences on Marx's thought include social thinkers of the Enlightenment, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau; earlier political economists, notably Smith and Ricardo; Hegel, from whom Marx borrowed his dialectical method; Ludwig Feuerbach, who challenged the Christian assumptions in Hegel's thought; and the French socialist-anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who attacked the concept of private property. Some scholars have detected the influence of classical Greek thinkers such as Aristotle on Marx's relentless rationality. One more influence not to be ignored is that of Friedrich Engels, a notable author himself, who had already written The Condition of the Working Class in England (1844) before joining forces with Marx.


Marx's famous contemporaries include:

Friedrich Engels (1820–1895): A German philosopher and sociologist and coauthor with Marx of The Communist Manifesto.

Charles Darwin (1809–1882): The British scientist known as the originator of the theory of evolution by natural selection.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865): The French socialist-anarchist philosopher who coined the phrase, “property is theft.”

Charles Dickens (1812–1870): A British author of classic novels such as Great Expectations and David Copperfield.

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896): An American abolitionist and author of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865): The American president during the Civil War, famous for abolishing slavery in the United States.

The Power of the Working Class Marx's work is notable for its emphasis on the power held by the working class in a society. For centuries, and in many ways still today, those who performed the most laborious tasks—farmers, factory workers, and low-level tradespeople—have been given little say in the operation of the government under which they live. Marx pointed out that these workers actually produce the basic materials of value for a society and were therefore an important resource that was being exploited instead of being rewarded. Although these workers had little official power, Marx argued that they potentially held economic power through their numbers and through their ability to produce—or through the conscious decision not to produce—goods.

Coherence and Consistency One remarkable characteristic of Karl Marx's writings is the consistency of philosophical perspective and premise. Many of the specifics of his political prescriptions changed over time; his program for the First International, for example, differed significantly from the Communist Manifesto, especially in its emphasis on labor unions as a vehicle for working-class empowerment. However, it is generally acknowledged that Marx's mature conclusions had been formulated as early as the 1840s, in good part through his famous meetings with Engels.

Worldwide Impact Karl Marx's ideas have had a stunningly deep impact—perhaps greater than that of any other single political thinker of the modern age—around the world and in many fields of human endeavor. The language, questions, assertions, and predictions in his prose have entered the standard discourse of politics, economics, history, and cultural criticism. His theory is cited just as often by its opponents as by its adherents. Among the countless Marxist or neo-Marxist thinkers and writers of the twentieth century, some of the most prominent have included Antonio Gramsci, Jean-Paul Sartre, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse (and other theorists of the Frankfurt School), and the historians E. P. Thompson and Eric Hobsbawm. Marxian formulations, such as his emphasis on ideology and false consciousness, are fundamental to the intersecting bodies of late twentieth-century scholarship known as critical theory.

Lenin, Mao, and Communism Last but not least, the theories of Karl Marx have profoundly affected a large proportion of the world's population through their incorporation into the communist revolutions in Russia, China, and elsewhere. Marx himself never drew up a clear outline for communist governance, much less revolution as such; he saw a revolution as inevitable, but also imagined that it would be predicated on the growth of critical consciousness among the workers of the world. However, the major leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution, Vladimir I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, both viewed themselves as heirs to Marx. Later on, a rift developed between them, and to this day Leninist and Trotskyist political parties spar over their conflicting interpretations of Marx. Mao Zedong also claimed a Marxist lineage but developed a Chinese variant in which peasants, rather than urban industrial workers, were the main class forces in the revolution. At the high-water mark of Third World socialism and communism, nearly half the world's population lived under governments that claimed allegiance to the principles of Karl Marx.

Works in Critical Context

Karl Marx did not live to witness the profound political and social impact of his thinking. The immediate reception of most of his writings was modest. For example, some people erroneously believe that the uprisings of 1848 sprang more or less directly from The Communist Manifesto, but at the time of its publication, it was not widely read. In the decades after Marx's death, however, larger political parties on the left, such as Germany's Social Democratic Party, began to adopt a Marxist orientation. The Russian Revolution of 1917, which took place during World War I (1914–1918), brought a great deal more attention, both positive and negative, to Marx's work.


A vast body of literature attempts to analyze Karl Marx's works and apply them to a wide range of fields. Here are a few of the more well-known works of Marxism:

State and Revolution (1917), a political text by Vladimir Lenin. Written in the midst of the Soviet revolution by its main leader, this pamphlet clarifies the approach the Bolsheviks would take in organizing a communist state.

Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944), an analytical work by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer. This is the signature work of the Frankfurt School of Marxist critics, including their critique of Enlightenment philosophy and the “culture industry.”

Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968), an education text by Paulo Freire. This classic describes an innovative, class-conscious approach to popular education, as developed among Brazilian adults.

Selections from the Prison Notebooks (1971), a collection of essays and fragments by Antonio Gramsci. These are the most systematic writings of one of the twentieth century's most important Marxist thinkers.

Marxism and Literary Criticism (1976), a literary theory text by Terry Eagleton. Eagleton's treatise is a seminal work of critical theory, describing a method for uncovering and analyzing the ideological underpinnings of literary texts.

The Communist Manifesto The Communist Manifesto, a relatively short pamphlet and surely Marx's most-read work, has rarely failed to spark debate. One debate surrounding this text has been its actual status as a piece of literature. As long ago as 1901—four years before the first major revolution in Russia and sixteen years before its successful progeny, the 1917 Russian Revolution inspired by Marx's thought—prominent Polish socialist Karl Kautsky observed that the document offered a useful guide for socialist revolutionaries, but warned too that “it is no gospel, no bible, as it has been called, the words of which are holy words, but an historic document that should be subjected to criticism.” In a very different register, key social thinker Joseph Schumpeter argued that “in one important sense, Marxism is a religion. To the believer it presents, first, a system of ultimate ends that embody the meaning of life and are absolute standards by which to judge events and actions; and, secondly, a guide to those ends, which implies a plan of salvation and the indication of the evil from which mankind, or a chosen section of mankind, is to be saved.” For Schum-peter and for countless others, Marx was a prophet of sorts—and like most prophets throughout history, prone both to important inaccuracies and to being used for a wide variety of political ends.

The End of History and Marx in the Twenty-first Century Today, Marx is universally recognized as one of the most important thinkers of the modern era. Along-side such giants as Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud, he expressed ideas that changed the world immensely. Although his analysis of capitalism remains powerfully astute, many of his expectations and predictions have not been borne out by subsequent history. For example, he thought that the contradictions of capitalism would quickly intensify, not anticipating the rise of labor regulations, pensions, and other social reforms in market societies. More importantly still, he did not see how a “consumer society” would develop to help relieve the tension caused by the excess inherent in the system of capitalism. He also failed to anticipate that his “dictatorship of the proletariat,” when it took shape in revolutionary societies like the Soviet Union, could lead to the shrinking of human freedoms rather than to their expansion.

It is crucial to distinguish, however, between what Marx himself believed and what his followers have done in his name. Among those who proudly consider themselves Marxists, there is considerable diversity and bitter debate over how to interpret Marx's words and apply his theoretical constructs to current events and political battles. Among his opponents, the term “Marxist” is an epithet broadly, and often inaccurately, invoked against liberal politicians and public policies intended to regulate the free market and distribute resources equitably. Chiding some of the more radical French activists shortly before his death, Marx is said to have remarked, “If that is Marxism, then I am not a Marxist.”

Most recent interpretations of Marx have focused on how his ideas could be transferred to or translated for a post-Communist world. After the fall of the “iron curtain” separating the Soviet bloc from the West, and the discrediting of Communism as a mode of government, many observers have argued that socialist, Marxist thought is no longer even possible. Famously, U.S. government policy analyst Francis Fukuyama proclaimed in 1989 an “End of History,” arguing that it was no longer possible to even imagine a historical alternative to capitalist democracy. He wrote, “The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism … since the egalitarianism of modern America represents the essential achievement of the classless society envisioned by Marx.” This is, for good reason, a hotly contested—and, some argue, a hopelessly naïve or even willfully cynical—perspective. On the other end of the spectrum, though, a neo-Marxism has emerged, represented by thinkers like Slovenian psychoanalyst and philosopher Slavoj Zizek. Zizek makes the case that a careful reading of Marx must make us suspicious of today's “humanitarian” capitalists such as Bill Gates and George Soros, arguing that “the same Soros [for example] who gives millions to fund education has ruined the lives of thousands thanks to his financial speculations and in doing so created the conditions for the rise of the intolerance he denounces.” For Zizek and many other thinkers on the Left today, Marx's thought has not only survived the death of Soviet communism, but is perhaps more vital today than ever before.

Responses to Literature

  1. Evaluate the prose style of The Communist Manifesto. How do the tone and language help achieve the purposes of the piece?
  2. Define and summarize one of the key concepts of Marx's theory of economics, such as “surplus value.” Can you find an example of this concept in the real world?
  3. Research the state of industrial development in Europe at the time Marx began his career. What were the conditions that motivated his critique of capitalism?
  4. What differences do you see between the ideas in Marx's own writing and the way his ideas were used by Lenin and Stalin in building the Soviet Union?
  5. Research the history of socialism before Marx. Where does the term come from, and what was original in Marx's conceptualization of socialism?



Appelbaum, Richard P. Karl Marx. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1988.

Berlin, Isaiah. Karl Marx: His Life and Environment. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.

Bloch, Ernst. On Karl Marx. New York: Herder and Herder, 1971.

Carver, Terrell. Marx and Engels: The Intellectual Relationship. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983.

Collins, Henry. Karl Marx and the British Labour Movement: Years of the First International. New York: St. Martin's, 1965.

Eubanks, Cecil L. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: An Analytical bibliography. 2nd ed. New York: Garland, 1984.

Hamilton, Richard F. The Bourgeois Epoch: Marx and Engels on Britain, France, and Germany. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.

Lefebvre, Henri. The Sociology of Marx. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.

McLellan, David. Karl Marx: His Life and Thought. New York: Harper and Row, 1973.

Nicolaievsky, Boris, and Otto Maenchen-Helfen. Karl Marx: Man and Fighter. London: Methuen, 1936.

Prawer, Siegbert S. Karl Marx and World Literature. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976.

Schumpeter, Joseph. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. New York: Harper Perennial, 1962.

Sowell, Thomas. Marxism, Philosophy, and Economics. New York: Morrow, 1985.

Tonnies, Ferdinand. Karl Marx, His Life and Teachings. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1974.


Fukuyama, Francis. “The End of History?” National Interest, Summer 1989.

Kautsky, Karl. “To What Extent Is the Communist Manifesto Obsolete?” Leipziger Volkszeitung, 1904.

Zizek, Slavoj. “Nobody Has to Be Vile”. London Review of Books, April 6, 2006.

Karl Marx

views updated May 18 2018

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). □

Marx, Karl Heinrich

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MARX, KARL HEINRICH (1818–1883), German social philosopher and the chief theorist of modern socialism. Marxism became in the 20th century a new creed for hundreds of millions of socialists, often hardening into a dogma, particularly in the communist movement and in the Soviet Bloc, the People's Republic of China, and other communist countries. Born in the Rhineland town of Trier (then West Prussia), Marx was the son of Jewish parents, Heinrich and Henrietta Marx. Heinrich Marx became a successful lawyer, and, when an edict prohibited Jews from being advocates, he converted to Protestantism in 1817. In 1824, when Karl was six years old, his father converted his eight children. Karl Marx was educated at the high school in Trier and studied history and philosophy at the universities of Bonn and Berlin. He was strongly influenced by Hegel's philosophy and joined a radical group known as the Young Hegelians. In 1841 he received his degree of doctor of philosophy at the University of Jena where he presented his dissertation on the "Differenz der demokritischen und epikureischen Naturphilosophie." When his connection with the Young Hegelians prevented him from obtaining a teaching position at the University of Bonn, he turned to journalism. He became the editor of the liberal Cologne daily Rheinische Zeitung in 1842. In the following year he married Jenny von Westphalen, daughter of a high Prussian official. Soon afterward, the Rheinische Zeitung was suppressed and the young couple went to Paris where Marx expected to edit the Deutsch-Franzoesische Jahrbuecher. In fact only one issue was brought out (1844).

The young Marx's ideas attracted the attention of older radicals and socialists. Moses *Hess, one of the editors of the Rheinische Zeitung, wrote in a letter to the German-Jewish writer Berthold *Auerbach: "Dr. Marx, as my idol is called, is still a very young man; he will give medieval religion and politics their last blow. He combines the deepest earnestness with the most cutting wit. Imagine Rousseau, Voltaire, Holbach, Lessing, Heine, and Hegel united in one person. I say united, not lumped together – and you have Dr. Marx." While evolving from his philosophy as a Young Hegelian to his own concept of man as creating himself by labor, he transmitted in his writings a passionate yearning for a new, free society in which socialist man will transcend the imposed "alienation" from state – controlled society and from his labor and its fruits. An article contributed to the Deutsch-Franzoesische Jahrbuecher by Friedrich Engels led to a lifelong friendship between Marx and Engels. Engels, a fellow Rhinelander of socialist and Hegelian leanings, was the son of a wealthy industrialist with factories in Germany and England and was able to support Marx financially for the rest of his life. Marx, who maintained personal friendly contact with Heinrich *Heine, was one of the editors of Vorwaerts, a German newspaper published in Paris, which contained sharp attacks against the Prussian government. Its ambassador in Paris protested and Marx was expelled from France.

He went to Brussels where he wrote "Misère de la philosophie, Response a la philosophie de la misère de M. Proudhon" (1847), an attack on the Utopian social order advocated by Proudhon. Marx argued that the capitalistic society leads to the strengthening of the proletariat, a class which of necessity must become revolutionary and must overthrow the contemporary social organization based on exploitation. Socialist theorists should not waste their time in describing how society should be ideally built, but rather analyze what is going on in the present world.

In 1845, while in Brussels, Marx was forced to renounce his Prussian citizenship, and thus became "stateless." (Sixteen years later he vainly tried to regain it with the help of Ferdinand *Lassalle. He also applied for British citizenship, but the Home Office rejected his application (1874) on the grounds that "this man was not loyal to his king.") Marx cooperated with the "League of the Just" which became "The League of the Communists" (Bund der Kommunisten) which had its headquarters in London. He attended its second congress in London at the end of 1847 and together with Engels presented a new program for the League called The Communist Manifesto. It was published in February 1848 under the title Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei and rapidly became the best known work of modern socialism. It began with the words "A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of Communism," and postulated that "the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes." It ended with the words, "The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!" A month after the publication of the Manifesto, Marx was expelled from Belgium and went to Paris. He left for Cologne soon afterward, following the outbreak of revolution in Germany, and became editor of the Cologne daily Neue Rheinische Zeitung. When the revolution failed and political reaction set in, he was expelled first from Cologne and then from Paris. He settled in London soon afterward where, in spite of the financial assistance that he received from Engels, he led the hard life of a political exile until his death.

From 1852 to 1861 Marx partly supported himself by being the London correspondent of the New York Tribune, commenting on current world affairs. He also drafted a resolution of English workers congratulating Abraham Lincoln on his election as president of the United States. For years he was an almost daily visitor to the British Museum Library, where he studied the great economists, many governmental "Blue Books" on industrial and labor relations, gathering material for his magnum opus "Das Kapital, Kritik der politischen Oekonomie" the first volume of which appeared in Hamburg in 1867. (Volumes 2 and 3 were completed and edited by Engels in 1885 and 1893 respectively.) Marx's other writings include Die Klassenkaempfe in Frankreich 18481850 (1850; Eng. translation The Civil War in France, 1852); Der achtzehnte Brumaire des Louis Bonaparte (1852), and Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie (1859; Eng. trans. Critique of Political Economy, 1904).

Marx was not only a theoretician, he also took active part in the labor and socialist movement, and especially in the International Workingmen's Association (The First International), being a leading member of its General Council. But he lacked the qualities of a popular leader and his followers constituted a small minority of the association.

Marx's System

Marx had an exceptionally powerful mind and a rare capacity for research; his knowledge was encyclopedic. His influence on the modern world has been compared to that of the great religions, or Newton and Darwin. His work is the more difficult to understand as Das Kapital remained unfinished, and certain aspects of his doctrine only slightly sketched. His (and Engels') system – Marxism – is also known under the names of "economic" or "materialistic determinism," "dialectical materialism," or "scientific" (as opposed to "utopian") socialism. From Hegel he took the dialectical method, but ultimately applied it in a sense opposite to Hegel's idealist philosophy.

In what Marx calls "the social production" men enter into relations that are indispensable and independent of their will. These "relations of production" correspond to a definite stage of development of the material powers of production. The totality of these "relations of production" constitutes the real basis on which rises a legal and political "superstructure," and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The consciousness of men does not determine their existence, but on the contrary, is determined itself by their social existence. At a certain stage of their development, the "material forces of production" come in conflict with the existing "relations of production" or – what is but a legal expression of the same thing – with "the property relations" within which they had been at work before. From forms of development of the forces of production these relations turn into their fetters. Then comes the period of social revolution. With the change of the economic basis the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. The bourgeois relations of production are the last antagonistic form of the social process of production, the productive forces in the womb of bourgeois society creating the material conditions for the ultimate socialist solution of that antagonism.

Marx's theory of value, which he considered as the very basis of his whole economic theory, was critical of all of past political economics (even of the Ricardian). The value of a commodity, according to Marx, is determined by the amount of labor socially necessary for its production. Of indispensable importance in the system is Marx's concept of "surplus value." The activity of the capitalist employer is represented by the formula m-c-m1. With money (m), he buys the commodities (c) needed for production, and then sells the finished product for money (m1). It is evident that m1 is larger than m, else the whole process would involve no more than gratuitous trouble to the capitalist. Thus the labor power produces more than its value. This surplus value is the evidence and measure of the exploitation of the laborer by his employer.

Marx and the Jews

Marx's father Heinrich, whose original name was Hirschel ha-Levi, was the son of a rabbi and the descendant of talmudic scholars for many generations. Hirschel's brother was chief rabbi of Trier. Heinrich Marx married Henrietta Pressburg, who originated in Hungary and whose father became a rabbi in Nijmegen, Holland. Heinrich received a secular education, obtained a law degree, detached himself from his family and eventually also from his religion. Marx's mother spoke German with a heavy Dutch accent and never learned to write a grammatical letter in German. Intellectually she had little in common with her husband and son.

Karl Marx's attitude to Jews and Judaism has been discussed from different points of view, and therefore it is not surprising that it evolved into what was later described as "self-hatred," too. At the age of 15 he was solemnly confirmed and became deeply attached to Christianity and German culture. Great influence on him was exercised by his future father-in-law, Baron Johann Ludwig von Westphalen, who was a neighbor of his family. But later his relations with other members of his wife's aristocratic family became strained. For them he was a Jew, an atheist, a nonconformist, a man lacking in good manners.

Marx's first essay in the Deutsch-Franzoesische Jahrbuecher was entitled Zur Judenfrage ("About the Jewish Question"), in which he criticized Bruno Bauer's book on the topic. Bauer had insisted that the Jewish question was essentially a religious one, insoluble unless the Jews gave up their faith and joined the society of the state as atheists or non-Jews. Although Marx favored political emancipation of the Jews, he used violent anti-Jewish language to present his view. Judaism for him was synonymous with the hated bourgeois capitalism. "The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the moneyed man generally.…" "What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money … Out of its entrails bourgeois society continually creates Jews.… Emancipation from huckstering and from money, and consequently from practical, real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our era." Marx's essay is a striking evidence of his complete ignorance of Jewish history and culture, an ignorance surprising in light of his otherwise encyclopedic knowledge. Marx expressed his antagonism to Jews on a number of occasions: in his "Thesis on Feuerbach," in his articles for the New York Tribune, and in Das Kapital. In his private correspondence there are many derogatory references to Jews, who were for him the symbol of financial power and capitalist mentality, and also to Ferdinand Lassalle to whom he referred in his letters to Engels in typical antisemitic clichés. The only sympathetic account of Jews to emerge from Marx's pen is that which described their life and tribulations in the city of Jerusalem (New York Tribune, April, 15, 1854).

Compared with this point of view, which positions Marx in an antisemitic context, new research has emphasized the fact that he did not criticize Jews as Jews but as representatives of capitalism. These studies point to his closeness to other contemporary Jewish intellectuals like Moses Hess in Ueberdas Geldwesen (1845).

For six years Marx lived in London at 28 Dean Street, the house of a Jewish lace dealer. While on a holiday, he met the Jewish historian Heinrich *Graetz in Carlsbad and sent him his book on "The History of the Commune" as a present. Two years prior to his death the wave of anti-Jewish pogroms occurred in Russia (1881) and the influx of Jewish immigrants into London began. But there is no evidence of Marx's reaction to these events. His beloved daughter Eleanor, however, who acted as his secretary, considered herself Jewish, took interest in her ancestors, and had a warm appreciation for the Jewish workers in the East End of London. (She committed suicide in 1898 after an unhappy marriage to Edward Aveling.)

Marx's Jewish origin became a catalyst of anti-Jewish emotions. Already his rival in the First International, the Russian anarchist Michael *Bakunin did not refrain from anti-Jewish outbursts while attacking Marx. Later it served right-wing propagandists, particularly the fascist and Nazi regimes of the 1930s and 1940s, as a means to spice their anti-socialism with outright violent antisemitism. They used the term "Marxism" as denoting a sinister, worldwide "Jewish" plot against their national interests. In the Soviet Union, where Marxism-Leninism became the obligatory ideology, Marx's Jewish origin was generally mentioned in research works and encyclopedias until the 1940s, but from the later 1940s, when *Stalin's policy became anti-Jewish, it has been studiously concealed.

Collected Editions

The Marx-Engels (later the Marx-Engels-Lenin, and still later Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin) Institute in Moscow started in 1927 the publication of an academic edition of the collected works of Marx and Engels. In 1935 the publication was interrupted. There appeared the following: Marx-Engels, Historischkriti sche Gesamtausgabe; Werke, Schriften, Briefe first part: Saemtliche Werke und Schriften mit Ausnahme des "Kapital" (7 vols., 1927–35); third part: Der Briefwechsel zwischen Marx und Engels (4 vols., 1929–31). The volumes published thus far include the writings of Marx and Engels up to 1848 and all the known correspondence between Marx and Engels, 1844–83. The early volumes were edited under the direction of D. Ryazanov. An earlier collection is Franz Mehring's edition, Ausdem literarischen Nachlass von Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels und Ferdinand Lassalle (4 vols., 1902). D. Ryazanov edited the Gesammelte Schriften von Karl Marx und Friedrich Engels 1852 bis 1862 (2nd ed., 1920). For a bibliography of Marx's works, see Ernst Drahn, Marx-Bibliographie (2nd ed., 1923). Reliable and good selective bibliographies on Marx, Engels, and cognate subjects are found in Donald Drew Egbert and Stow Persons (eds.), Socialism and American Life (vol. 2, 1952, pp. 34ff., and passim). After World War ii a new edition of Karl Marx' and Friedrich Engels' works, Werke (ed. by the Institute of Marxismus-Leninismus beim zk der sed), was published in the German Democratic Republic in 39 volumes and one supplementary volume in two parts and two index-volumes from 1956 until 1971 (abbrev. mew). Another similar new edition of Karl Marx' and Friedrich Engels' works was begun in 1975 as Gesamtausgabe (ed. by Institut fuer Marxismus-Leninismus beim zk der kpdsu and the Institut fuer Marxismus-Leninismus beim zk der sed), and continued, after the fall of the Communist regime in Russia and East Germany, by the International Marx-Engels Foundation in Amsterdam (Abbrev. mega2).


F. Mehring, Karl Marx: The Story of His Life (1936, repr. 1951), incl. bibl.; K. Korsch, Karl Marx (Eng., 1963), incl. bibl.; L. Schwarzschild, The Red Prussian: The Life and Legend of Karl Marx (1948); I. Berlin, Karl Marx: His Life and Environment (19633), incl. bibl.; C. Tsuzuki, The Life of Eleanor Marx (1967); J. Lachs, Marxist Philosophy: A Bibliographical Guide (1967); R. Payne, Marx: A Biography (1968), incl. bibl.; M. Rubel, in: iess, 10 (1968), 34–40 incl. bibl.. add. bibliography: Th. Bottomore (ed.), A Dictionary of Marxist Thought (1991); E. Balibar, The Philosophy of Marx (1995); M. Heinrich, Die Wissenschaft vom Wert. Die Marxsche Kritik der politischen Ökonomie zwischen wissenschaftlicher Revolution und klassischer Tradition (new edition, 1999); J. Derrida, Marx Gespenster (2004). on marx and the jewish question: G. Mayer, Der Jude in Karl Marx [1918], in: idem, Aus der Welt des Soẓialismus. Kleine historische Aufsätze (1927); E. Silberner, Ha-Sozyalizm ha-Ma'aravi u-She'elat ha-Yehudim, pt. 2 (1955), 133–64, 448–51, includes detailed bibliography; idem, in: hj, 9 no. 1 (1949), 3–52. add. bibliography: idem, Sozialisten zur Judenfrage. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des Sozialismus vom Anfang des 19. Jahrhunderts bis 1914 (1962); H. Hirsch, "The Ugly Marx: Analysis of an 'Outspoken Anti-semite,'" in: The Philosophical Forum, 3:2–4 (1978), 150–162; J. Carlebach, Karl Marx and the Radical Critique of Judaism (1978); Z. Rosen, Moses Hess und Karl Marx. Ein Beitrag zur Entstehung der Marxschen Theorie (1983); J. Peled, "From Theology to Sociology. Bruno Bauer and Karl Marx on the Question of Jewish Emancipation," in: History of Political Thought, 13:3 (1992), 463–85; D. Leopold, "The Hegelian Antisemitism of Bruno Bauer," in: History of European Ideas, 25 (1999), 179–206; M. Tomba, "La questione ebraica: il problema dell'universalismo politico," in: M. Tomba (ed.), B. Bauer und K. Marx, La questione ebraica (2004), 9–45.

[Schneier Zalman Levenberg /

Lars Lambrecht (2nd ed.)]

Marx, Karl

views updated Jun 08 2018


MARX, KARL (18181883), German social and economic theorist. Marx was born in Trier on May 5, 1818. Both his grandfather and his uncle had been rabbis in the city and so had several of his paternal grandmother's ancestors. His mother also descended from a long line of rabbis in Holland. His father, Heinrich, had in 1817 converted to Protestantism in order to retain his position as a lawyer at the High Court of Appeals in Trier when the Rhineland, formerly French, became, through annexation, subject to the discriminatory laws of Prussia. Marx was baptized in 1824. During his high school years he enjoyed the literary tutelage of his father's friend, Baron Ludwig von Westphalen, whose daughter Jenny he would later marry.

In 1835 Marx registered in the faculty of law at the University of Bonn. A year later he transferred to the University of Berlin, but there he soon became ill through overwork. The following months of convalescence in the country completely changed his intellectual outlook. At first a romantic, vaguely religious idealist, he now converted to Hegel's philosophy. He joined a discussion group of "Young Hegelians," consisting of instructors and advanced students in a variety of disciplines, mostly of radical political and religious leanings. For them Hegel's dialectical method, separated from its conservative content, provided a powerful weapon for the critique of established religion and politics. The leading voices in the Doktorklub, as the group was called, were those of the theologians David Friedrich Strauss and Bruno Bauer. In his Life of Jesus Strauss had interpreted the gospel narratives as mythologizing the aspirations of the early Christian community. After some initial criticism, Bauer went even further: those narratives contained no truth at all, while the faith based on them had become the main obstacle on the road to political and cultural progress.

The young Marx extended these critical conclusions to all religion. His doctoral dissertation, On the Difference between the Philosophies of Nature in Democritus and Epicurus, which he submitted in 1841 to the Jena faculty of philosophy, was prefaced by a motto taken from Aeschylus's Prometheus: "In one word, I hate all the gods."

In 1843 Marx married Jenny von Westphalen. After his wedding and a prolonged vacation near Trier, he returned to Bonn, where he started writing for the radical Cologne paper Die Rheinische Zeitung. His first contribution consisted of a series of critical articles on the proceedings of the Rhineland parliament dealing with freedom of the press and the debates concerning the punishment of wood thefts. Other reports, on religious disputes, were censored and never appeared. In October 1842 Marx, having been appointed editor-in-chief, moved to Cologne. Six months later the paper folded under the pressure of Prussian censorship. In October 1843 Marx left the Rhineland for Paris, where he expected to find more freedom as well as make direct contact with French revolutionary workers' movements.

During his final year in Germany Marx's political position had developed from radically democratic to communist. At the same time he had increasingly come under the influence of that other critical interpreter of Hegel's philosophy, Ludwig Feuerbach. In The Essence of Christianity (1841) Feuerbach had applied Hegel's concept of alienation to all divine reality: in religion man projects his own nature into a supernatural realm and thus "alienates" from himself what rightly belongs to him. Marx instantly embraced the theory of religion as alienation, but he found Feuerbach's interpretation of the origin of the religious attitude inadequate. Religion, Marx asserted, mythically justifies a fundamental social frustration. Far from constituting the essence of human alienation, the need for religion implies a tacit protest against the existing, dehumanizing conditions of society. In that sense Marx called it "the opium of the people" in his essay "Introduction to a Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right" (1844), published in the Paris-based Deutsch-Franzözische Jahrbücher. "The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of men is a demand for real happiness. The call to abandon their illusions about this condition is the call to abandon a condition which requires illusions." Full emancipation demands that the social structures that create the need for religion be changed.

The secondary character of religious beliefs with respect to social-economic conditions appears in another essay Marx published in the same issue of the Jahrbücher, "On the Jewish Question." Bauer had proposed the thesis that the Jewish problem could be solved instantly if Jews would cease to claim religious privileges from the state. By so doing, they maintained the religious state and prevented their own as well as other people's emancipation. Bauer held that emancipation of man required a secular state that recognizes neither Christians nor Jews. Marx agreed that the existence of religion always indicates an incomplete emancipation, but he denied that religion is the cause of the problem or, for that matter, that political rights are the solution. Bauer had simply identified religion with alienation and political equality with emancipation. But political emancipation is by no means human emancipation. "To be politically emancipated from religion is not to be finally and completely emancipated from religion, because political emancipation is not the final and absolute form of human emancipation." Even if the state should suppress religion, its own existence would remain a profane expression of an alienation that in time would irresistibly produce its religious form. So instead of being a remedy for religious alienation, the secular state is the purest symptom of its presence. Even more than religion, the state keeps alive the inhuman conditions that separate the individual from his fellow human beings and thereby prevent humankind from realizing its full potential. If religion means deception, the state is more religious than the church.

Henceforth Marx devoted his critical efforts entirely to the critique of the state. But under the influence of an essay by Friedrich Engels on political economy, published in the same issue of the Jahrbücher that had featured Marx's own two essays, he saw that political attitudes are rooted in economic conditions. This "genial" insight inspired the so-called Economic Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, which would remain unpublished until 1927. Here, for the first time, Marx aims his attacks exclusively at the capitalist economy itself, a system that alienates the worker from the very activity through which he should achieve his humanization as well as from the kind of social cooperation required by genuine humanization.

In 1845 the French government (under Prussian pressure) forbade Marx all political activity and threatened him with imprisonment. Once again Marx emigrated, this time to Brussels, where he would remain until March 1848. This second stage of his mature life was to be a very productive one, even though little of his literary activity ever reached print.

Foremost among his unpublished writings from this period is The German Ideology (18451846). In it Marx developed the crucial concept of ideology and, with it, the basic principles of a powerful theory of history. Not what human beings think or imagine, not conscious decisions or theoretical schemes, but social-economic relations are the primary determining factors of history. Ideas, shaped by language, emerge from social-economic structures. The division between mental and physical labor, severing thinking from its vital, social roots, has given birth to an independent realm of abstract speculation. In fact, the theories accepted in a particular society express the interests and aspirations of the ruling class. As soon as one class acquires control over the process of material production, it falls heir to the "means of mental production" and begins to impose such ideas as best serve its dominion. Detached from its social-economic basis, theory turns into ideology. The term ideology refers to any theory that ignores the social conditioning of ideas and presents itself with a semblance of intellectual autonomy.

Engels later qualified Marx's position by suggesting that conscious processes, developed through the impact of social relations, in turn influence these relations. Unfortunately, Marx's later metaphorical reformulation of the relation (in the preface to his Critique of Political Economy ) as one between base and superstructure confirmed the "derived" character of ideas rather than eliminating it. Clearly, religion considered as a "superstructure" can hardly do more than "reflect" its social origins.

In Brussels, Marx and Engels, who had met in Paris in 1844 and by now had become constant, though often distant, collaborators, intensified their revolutionary activity. For the newly founded Communist League they wrote their famous Manifesto (1848), an entirely new vision of history. Since his early Paris days, the social-economic category of class had, for Marx, come to dominate all others. In the Manifesto 's scenario, the class of the bourgeoisie, created by the capitalist system, would function as the revolutionary lever toward the communist society of the future. An unprecedented social and cultural mover in its own development, the bourgeoisie is now destined to terminate the class structure of society itself. It does so by creating an underclass, the proletariat, that will increase in numbers and in misery until its members, for the sake of sheer survival, will be forced to rise throughout the entire industrialized world. "What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces above all else, is its own grave-diggers."

In the same year, 1848, revolutions started all over the European continent. But when the Belgian authorities learned of an imminent republican putsch, they expelled Marx from the country for illegal political agitation. The exile barely interrupted Marx's revolutionary activity. Returning to Paris on March 5 with the papers of the Communist League, which a few days earlier had had its headquarters transferred from London to Brussels, Marx was, on March 10, elected as its president. In his French headquarters his attention remained fixed on Germany, where he still expected a "total" revolution to take place. Through his speeches to the German Working Men's Club (based in Paris) and his articles in the new communist paper of Cologne, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, Marx continuously bombarded the German community with his revolutionary messages.

The June revolution in Paris confirmed at least part of Marx's theories, for in it social issues clearly prevailed over political ones. Meanwhile, Marx again had moved to Cologne to direct the Neue Reinische, which, not surprisingly, was gradually censored into extinction. Its editor was expelled from Prussian territory for having instigated open rebellion. During that same summer of 1848 Marx definitively settled down in London.

Here, amidst extreme poverty, domestic tragedy (several of his children died, possibly due to their living conditions), occasional family turmoil (his young servant bore him a child), and constant polemics, Marx completed the third stage of his career. Apart from revolutionary activity (mainly through the reorganized Communist League), he devoted himself entirely to his lifetime theoretical project: a definitive social critique of the capitalist economy. Only two parts of his voluminous theoretical writing during this period reached completion before his death: the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859) and the first volume of what by then had already become a reduced project, Capital (1867).

In all his later writings Marx criticizes capitalist theories in categories often borrowed from the classical economists, especially Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Even his central concept of surplus value, the value generated by labor beyond the cost of wages and tools, appears in Ricardo. But the perspective differs substantially. For Marx shows how capitalist theory merely expresses the practice of a society at a particular historical stage of its development. Indeed, capitalism is now approaching the point where its internal "contradictions" (in fact, mostly social conflicts) must openly erupt and destroy the system itself. Throughout his development Marx never wavered in his confidence that bourgeois society would break down in a social revolution that would result in a socialist state and, in due time, generate a stateless communist society.

Yet during this same period Marx also produced an enormous output of noneconomic writings, most important among them, two historical studies on the French revolution of 1848 and the subsequent events leading to the Second Empire of Napoleon III: The Class Struggles in France (1850) and The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852). In addition, he wrote hundreds of newspaper articles for the New York Daily Tribune and for the Neue Oder-Zeitung, his main source of support (beside the gifts of the ever-generous Engels) during that period.

From 1870 on Marx's health steadily declined. He increasingly suffered from respiratory problems, which, after 1880, forced him for prolonged periods to seek refuge from the damp, polluted London air in Margate, the Isle of Wight, Karlsbad (where he took the baths), Nice, and even North Africa. Yet despite his poor health his literary activity continued unabatedly, and his travels provided him with opportunities for establishing new revolutionary contacts as far away as Algiers. Still, it became gradually obvious that he would never complete his lifework, and during his final years he felt increasingly reluctant even to attempt bringing some order to his papers. Thus when he died on March 14, 1883, he left an enormous estate of unpublished manuscripts. Out of the more than a thousand pages of notes Marx had accumulated for the sequel of Capital, Engels published Capital II (1885) and Capital III (1894). In addition, in 1927 Karl Kautsky published the historical notes, Theories of Surplus Value, under the title Capital IV. In 1953 Marx's earlier preparatory notes for Capital appeared under the title Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (in English, simply Grundrisse ).


Dupré, Louis. The Philosophical Foundations of Marxism. New York, 1966.

Kolakowski, Leszek. Main Currents of Marxism: Its Rise, Growth, and Dissolution, vol. 1, The Founders. Oxford, 1978.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. On Religion. New York, 1964.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. Collected Works. 50 vols. Translated by Richard Dixon et al. New York, 1975.

McLellan, David. Karl Marx: His Life and Thought. London, 1973.

Rubel, Maximilien, and Margaret Manale. Marx without Myth: A Chronological Study of His Life and Work. Oxford, 1975.

New Sources

Hartley, George. The Abyss of Representation: Marxism and the Postmodern Sublime. Durham, N.C., 2003.

McLellan, David. "Then and Now: Marx and Marxism." Political Studies, 47 (December 1999): 955967.

Negri, Antonio. Marx beyond Marx. New York, 1989.

Read, Jason. The Micro-politics of Capital: Marx and the Prehistory of the Present. Albany, 2003.

Wheen, Francis. Karl Marx. New York, 2000.

Louis Dupré (1987)

Revised Bibliography

Marx, Karl

views updated May 23 2018

Karl Marx

BORN: May 5, 1818 • Trier, Prussia

DIED: March 14, 1883 • London, England

Prussian philosopher; economist; writer

Karl Marx was an economist, journalist, historian, philosopher, and atheist (a person who does not believe in a God or gods) who played a major role in shaping the intellectual atmosphere of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was born in Trier, Prussia, on May 5, 1818, to Hirschel and Henrietta Marx. Prussia was a separate kingdom that later became part of a unified Germany. Prussia's state religion was Protestant Lutheranism, a branch of Christianity, but Marx's family was Jewish, and his ancestry included rabbis (persons trained in Jewish law, ritual, and tradition) on both sides of the family. Around 1816 or 1817, the Prussian parliament passed an order saying that Jews could not practice law. Hirschel, who was a lawyer, converted to Lutheranism and changed his first name to Heinrich. His son, Karl, was then baptized as a Lutheran in 1824.

"Religion is the groan of the oppressed, the sentiment of a heartless world, and at the same time the spirit of a condition deprived of spirituality. It is the opium of the people."

Marx's early years and education

Marx grew up in a home that was Lutheran in name but essentially nonreligious. Like many liberal Protestants of that era and region, the family did not hold strong religious beliefs. From a cultural standpoint the family's conversion to a Protestant religion alienated them from their Jewish background and community. Young Karl did not think of himself as either Protestant or Jewish. He attended religious schools as a child, but only because his parents believed he would receive a better education than in a nonreligious school.

After attending school in Trier from 1830 to 1835, Marx enrolled at the University of Bonn (Germany) to study law. To his father's dismay, however, he spent most of his time socializing and getting into debt. Determined that his son should get a good education, Heinrich paid off his son's debts and forced him to transfer to Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin, a more academically challenging school.

Over the next few years Marx dropped his bad habits and succeeded in his studies. He focused on law at first, but soon became more interested in history and philosophy because of the influence of one of his teachers, the political radical Bruno Bauer (1809–1882). A political radical is someone who supports extreme change in views, conditions, and institutions. Bauer introduced Marx to the work of the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831). Marx joined a university group called the Young Hegelians, who met to discuss and debate the philosopher's views.

Marx was especially drawn to Hegel's view of history and historical progress, which was based on his theory of the "dialectic." According to this theory, in any area of human activity, such as history, law, and economics, a thing cannot exist without its opposite. For example the upper classes cannot exist without the lower classes, poverty cannot exist without wealth, and an oppressed class (one kept down by the use of unjust force or authority) cannot exist without a class of oppressors. In Hegel's view, human history consisted of the clash of these opposites. One thing, which Hegel called the "thesis," always clashed with its opposite, the "antithesis," to create a new social order, the "synthesis." This view of the progression of history would later influence much of Marx's own writings.

Outcast journalist and writer

In 1838 Heinrich Marx died, and Karl had to support himself financially. His first goal was to become a university teacher. He had hoped that after he completed a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Jena, Bruno Bauer would help him find a teaching post. Bauer, though, was unable to help because his radicalism had led to his being fired from his own job. Since he was unable to secure a teaching position, Marx decided to try journalism. Most magazine and newspaper editors, however, were unwilling to publish his work because of his radical political views.

After struggling as a journalist Marx moved to Cologne, Germany, where he joined the city's large population of liberals and radicals and became involved with a group known as the Cologne Circle. Among these political rebels was Moses Hess (1812–1875), who organized socialist meetings and introduced Marx to the city's working-class population. Socialism is an economic system in which the production and distribution of goods is owned collectively by the people or by a centralized government. Marx published an article in the German newspaper, the Rheinische Zeitung, and readers were so impressed by it that he was appointed editor of the paper in 1842. Marx proceeded to write articles that were sharply critical of the government. In reaction to this, government censors shut the newspaper down in 1843.

Capitalism vs. Socialism

Any discussion of Karl Marx's life and thought involves reference to certain major economic systems. The system that Marx opposed was capitalism. Capital, in this circumstance, refers to wealth stored in the hands of individuals. In a capitalist economic system, individuals own the methods of producing goods, such as factories and raw materials. Workers supply labor to capitalists for pay, which is determined by market forces of supply and demand. If supply for a particular product is high but demand for it is low, the capitalist will not make much money and will pay his workers less. If supply is low and demand is high, however, the capitalist will have more wealth to pass on to the workers.

Nineteenth-century liberals and radicals called for an end to capitalism, which they believed created unemployment and poverty. A liberal is someone who is open to new methods and does not rely on tradition to guide views or actions. A radical is someone who advocates for extreme changes in views, organizations, and ways of doing things. They supported a different form of economic organization called socialism. In a socialist economic system, the government takes over the methods of production and provides people with a wide range of social benefits, such as health care and education. The goal is to lessen the differences between the rich and the poor, especially in terms of income. Communism can be thought of as an extreme form of socialism. Under a communist economic system, there is no private property. Factories, goods, raw materials, and land are considered to be owned collectively by the people and are given out by the government according to people's needs.

During the mid-nineteenth century, the lower classes of Europe began to revolt against the wealthier citizens. These clashes occasionally erupted into violence. Many people, particularly those in government and members of the upper classes, lived in daily fear of the possibility of what they called "mob rule." Government authorities attempted to suppress radicals, freethinkers, socialists, and all others who posed threats to the established order. A freethinker is someone who forms opinions independent from authority figures.

Partners with Engels

As one of these freethinkers, Marx feared that he would be arrested. After he married his longtime sweetheart, Jenny von Westphalan, he fled to Paris. Given the growing radicalism of Marx's political opinions, his marriage seems a strange one, as Jenny was a member of an aristocratic, or socially privileged, family. The marriage in fact had been opposed by both their families. In Paris Marx took a position as editor of a new political journal. He also met Friedrich Engels (1820–1895), the radical communist son of a wealthy industrialist (owner of a manufacturing industry), who would become his lifelong friend and coauthor. A communist supports an economic system under which all goods are owned collectively by the people and managed by the government according to need. Engels increased Marx's awareness of the poverty and misery of the French working class, and Marx found Engels's communist views compatible with his own.

Once again, Marx's political beliefs placed him in danger, and the French government eventually ordered him to leave the country. In 1845 he and Engels moved to Brussels, Belgium, another European capital that had attracted a large number of radical thinkers. There Marx wrote some of his earliest major works, including On the Jewish Question and The Poverty of Philosophy. He also wrote The German Ideology, in which he outlined his theory of materialism, which was his belief that historical events were not the result of vague, theoretical (not practical) concepts, but of concrete human activity. These ideas provided a foundation for his atheism, or disbelief in God.

In 1845 Marx and Engels visited England. They observed the industrial city of Manchester, where large numbers of workers lived in slums in which poverty, disease, unemployment, alcoholism, and domestic violence were widespread. The next year Marx established the Communist Correspondence Committee to link socialist and communist leaders throughout Europe. After radicals in London established a secret organization called the Communist League, Marx formed a branch of the league in Brussels. In 1847 he returned to London to attend a meeting of the Communist League's Central Committee, where he described the aim of the movement, quoted on the Web site Spartacus Educational, as "the overthrow of the bourgeoisie [the classes that owned property], the domination of the proletariat [the working classes], the abolition of the old bourgeois society based on class antagonisms, and the establishment of a new society without classes and without private property."

While still living in Brussels, Marx and Engels published their most famous work, a twelve-thousand-word pamphlet entitled The Communist Manifesto. Engels had written an earlier draft of the pamphlet titled Principles of Communism, and Marx reworked it into its final form. The Manifesto begins with the now famous words, "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." Marx and Engels outlined a new way of examining history, arguing that history was made not through the activities of great individuals, nor by the clashes between states, but by the conflict between social classes. Marx and Engels believed that there were two such principal classes in the nineteenth century: the bourgeoisie, or the wealthy owners of factories, raw materials, and the means of production; and the proletariat, or those without money or goods who were forced to work for the capitalists and often lived in poverty. Marx and Engels looked forward to a revolutionary future when the proletariat would overthrow the bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie would disappear, income inequalities would vanish, and a classless society would arise.

The year 1848 was one of great political disorder in many cities throughout Europe. In France working-class revolutionaries overthrew King Louis-Phillipe (1773–1793) and invited Marx back to Paris. He accepted the invitation in part because the Belgian government had forced him to leave that country. The new French government failed, however, and in 1849 Marx was forced to leave Paris again. He returned to Cologne, where he resurrected his old newspaper as the Neue Rheinische Zeitung and reported on revolutionary developments throughout Europe. He also established a Committee on Public Safety in response to what he saw as police brutality directed against the public.

No matter where he went, however, Marx was oppressed, or treated badly by authority, because of his radical views. In 1849 he was expelled from Germany and returned to Paris, but he was soon ordered to leave France as well. He then settled in the only country that would give him entry, England. French authorities tried to persuade the British government to deny Marx admission to the country, but the British prime minister, John Russell (1792–1878), was a strong defender of the right of free speech and rejected the pleas of the French.

Marx in England

Marx spent the rest of his life in England with his growing family. They had little money, and in 1850 they were evicted from an apartment in London's Chelsea district because they could not pay the rent. They relocated to the Soho district, where they lived for six years in cheaper accommodations. Marx spent most of his time in the reading room of the British Museum, where he studied economic journals in an effort to understand the workings of capitalism. His debts grew, and for financial support he relied on Engels, who had returned to Germany to work for his father. For years Engels mailed money to his friend in England. To prevent the funds from being stolen during the postal process, he purchased money orders, cut them in half, and mailed the halves in separate envelopes.

Marx's fortunes took an upward turn in 1852, when the editor of the New York Daily Tribune, Charles Dana (1819–1897), offered Marx the opportunity to submit articles. Over the next decade, Marx delivered nearly five hundred articles to Dana, some of which were actually written by Engels. Another publisher in the United States, George Ripley (1802–1880), paid Marx to write for the New American Cyclopedia. This work, combined with a small inheritance from Jenny Marx's mother, allowed the family to move to more comfortable quarters in Kentish Town, near London. Marx's good fortune, however, was short-lived. In 1856 Jenny gave birth to a stillborn child, then was later left deaf and badly scarred by smallpox, a highly infectious disease. For much of the rest of his life, Marx himself endured a number of health problems, including a severe case of boils, an inflammation of the skin. He consoled himself by characterizing the problem as a "proletarian" disease.

In the 1860s Marx's financial problems returned when his work for the New York Daily Tribune came to an end. Engels continued to send him money, and he also received support from Ferdinand Lassalle (1825–, a wealthy socialist from Germany who wanted Marx to edit a new socialist journal he was planning. Marx was unwilling to return to Germany, however, so he turned the job down. Nevertheless, Lassalle continued to contribute to Marx's support until his own death in 1864.

Despite his various problems, Marx continued to work. In 1867 he published the first volume of his second major work, Das Kapital, a criticism of the capitalist economic system. In this book Marx presented the theory that capitalism would in time cause its own collapse. He said wealth would become concentrated in a very small number of companies. At the same time the poverty and misery of the working classes would increase. Marx looked forward to the time when the working classes would organize themselves and overthrow the capitalist system.

In 1871 Marx thought that his vision of a new economic order was coming with the formation of the Paris Commune. In March of that year socialists rose up and established a revolutionary government in Paris that introduced a number of socialist reforms. In May, however, French troops suppressed the rebellion and killed thirty thousand revolutionaries in an assault on the city. Another fifty thousand were later executed. Marx was depressed by the outcome, but he continued to work on a second volume of Das Kapital. Progress proved slow, and by 1881 both Karl and Jenny were ill. In December 1881 Jenny died. Two years later Marx's eldest daughter also passed away. Marx did not recover from these losses and died himself on March 14, 1883. He never completed either the second volume, or a planned third volume of Das Kapital. Engels later assembled the volumes from Marx's notes.

Marx and atheism

Karl Marx was an atheist nearly his entire life. As a very young man he saw himself as a child of the Enlightenment, also called the Age of Reason, a period of increasingly progressive intellectualism in Europe that covered roughly the eighteenth century. Thinkers during this period preferred reason and the scientific method to faith, especially religious faith. In a paper he wrote at the University of Jena, Marx commented on the notion that the concept of God would have no place in a "country of reason": "Take paper money to a country in which this use of paper money is not known, and everyone will laugh at your subjective representation. Go with your gods to a country in which other gods are worshipped, and you will be shown that you are the victim of fancies and abstractions. And rightly."

Later, in an 1844 book titled Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Public Law, Marx famously stated, "Man makes religion, religion does not make man…. Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against it. Religion is the groan of the oppressed, the sentiment of a heartless world, and at the same time the spirit of a condition deprived of spirituality." He concluded this passage with perhaps his most quoted words: "It [religion] is the opium of the people." In other words, Marx saw religion as a drug that people created to help themselves hide their own misery and oppression.

Marx based his atheism on three principles. The first of these, related to the Hegelian concept, he called "dialectical materialism." Marx believed that physical matter, not indefinite ideas such as spirit or thought, caused everything that occurs in the world. The second principle, related to the first, revolved around his view of history, which was based on materialist notions of economics and the class divisions within society created by economic systems. The third principle was that of humanism, a system of thought which says that the condition of humankind is foremost in importance. As Marx expressed in his Critique, "The criticism of religion leads to the doctrine according to which man is, for man, the supreme being."

Marx's atheism was also based on more practical considerations. Throughout his written works he frequently condemned churches as being allies of government. He saw much of religion as part of a system that created privileged classes of industrial masters who used their religion to justify their worldly success. In his view, the proletarian revolution would sweep away all such institutions that contributed to inequality. Largely influenced by Marx's views of religion, the communist states of the twentieth century were officially atheist.

For More Information


Bottomore, Tom, ed. A Dictionary of Marxist Thought. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Reference, 1991.

Marx, Karl. Critique of Hegel's "Philosophy of Right." Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1970.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. New York, NY: Signet, 1998.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. On Religion. New York, NY: Random House, 1982.

Wheen, Francis. Karl Marx: A Life. New York, NY: Norton, 2001.


"Karl Marx." Spartacus Educational. (accessed on May 26, 2006).

"Karl Marx." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (accessed on May 26, 2006).

Park, Wonbin. "Karl Marx." The Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Modern Western Theology. (accessed on May 26, 2006).

Marx, Karl

views updated May 18 2018


Karl Marx (1818–1883) was born in Trier, Prussia on May 5 and died in London on March 14. He was educated in Trier and at the universities of Bonn and Berlin, thus coming under the influence of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (who he later radically criticized) before receiving his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Jena in 1841. Throughout most of his adult life, he was assisted both financially and intellectually by Friedrich Engels (1820–1895), with whom he coauthored such works as The German Ideology (1845–1846) and "The Communist Manifesto" (1848).

Marx wrote mainly on capitalism as an economic system, and is most closely identified with the multivolume Capital (Vol 1 [1867]; Vol. 2 [1885]; Vol.3 [1894], Vols. 2 and 3 published by Engels after Marx's death). This massive 2,500 page work explores the capitalist system in terms of the logic of its functioning, its historical progression, and its fate. Marx's writings on science are scattered and fragmentary, and his discussions of technology, though more detailed, are largely unsystematic. Therefore this entry will concentrate more on his views on ethics and morality, the implications of which are enormous.

Technology and Science

Technology and science played an important role in Marx's thought. His general theory of human history, historical materialism, gave technology a major role in forming the foundation of society and in the process of historical change. Every society rests on an economic base or mode of production, which includes both forces and relations of production. The forces of production consist mainly of the level of technological development a society has achieved and of the features of the natural environment in which it is located. Relations of production are the social and economic relations people enter in the process of production and involve the ownership of the productive forces. The productive forces might be owned and controlled by the entire society, or, more commonly, by a relatively small segment of society. Those who own the productive forces dictate their operation and often subject the mass of the population to conditions of severe exploitation and oppression. The other major part of every society is the superstructure, which consists of politics, law, family life, religion, and the mode of consciousness, or collective forms of thought and feeling. The superstructure rests on the economic base and is largely determined by it.

Marx regarded the earliest societies as constituting forms of primitive communism. Here people lived by using simple technologies of hunting, fishing, agriculture, and animal husbandry. Because of the communal nature of such societies and the absence of class divisions and exploitation, they would have been idyllic except for their low level of technological development, which prevented people from adequately satisfying basic needs. Gradually, however, progress in technology enhanced human power to manipulate the environment, but in ways that led to the formation of private property and class divisions. European society passed through a slave mode of production in ancient times and then a feudal stage. Capitalism succeeded feudalism.

Despite his savage criticisms, Marx appreciated the great achievements of capitalism, the foremost being its enormous capacity for the development of technology in the form of modern industry. In his general theory of history, Marx saw capitalism as a prerequisite for the development of socialism because the latter, in order to meet basic human needs and allow for everyone's self-realization and self-fulfillment, requires material abundance. Capitalism developed technology to a level sufficient for the creation of this abundance. But socialism would develop technology even further, thus allowing for the elimination, or at least the reduction, of the most unpleasant and burdensome forms of work.

Marx had much less to say about science than he did about technology, but he was a major proponent of science, both because of its ability to produce intellectual knowledge and its capacity for the development of industry. In the section of the "Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts" (1844) devoted to private property and capitalism, Marx writes that "natural science has invaded and transformed human life all the more practically through the medium of industry; and has prepared human emancipation" (Marx 1978b, p. 90). Also "Natural science will in time subsume under itself the science of man, just as the science of man will subsume under itself natural science: there will be one science" (Marx 1978b, p. 91).

Indeed Marx regarded historical materialism as a scientific theory that could be empirically verified (Husami 1980). He was also a great admirer of Charles Darwin and highly commended Origin of Species (1859) to Engels, saying that it served as a basis in nature for their theory of history. Later, in his speech at Marx's grave, Engels was to say, "Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, Marx discovered the law of development of human history" (Engels 1978, p. 681).

Ethical Perspective

Marx did not have an ethical theory, or a theory of justice, in the sense of such great moral philosophers as Immanuel Kant or John Rawls. In fact Marx explicitly disavowed all talk of justice and rights, in part because they belong to the juridical superstructure rather than the technoeconomic base. In capitalist society, juridical notions are part of the way in which the capitalist mode of production and its ruling class are maintained. In "Critique of the Gotha Programme" (1875) he argues that, in discussions of socialism, notions of justice and rights are obsolete verbal rubbish and ideological nonsense. Under socialism there will be no need for rights and liberties, their raison d'etre having disappeared. The rights and liberties found in capitalist society only exist because capitalism is a highly inadequate mode of production from a human point of view (Buchanan 1982).

In his famous essay "On the Jewish Question" (1843), Marx drew an important distinction between political freedom and human freedom. Political freedom consists of the constitutional liberties that people have in capitalist society: the right to property, speech, and assembly, equal treatment before the law, and so on. Political rights are a cover for an absence of human rights. Human freedom involves the opportunity of all individuals not only to have the full satisfaction of their basic needs, but also the opportunity to realize their essential nature as human beings through creative and self-fulfilling work. In capitalist society, everyone has political freedom but only a few can achieve true human freedom. Only in socialist society can human freedom become commonly achieved. This vision of freedom is intimately tied to Marx's views on technology, because true human freedom requires a very advanced level of technology, which a fully realized socialist society will have.

Nevertheless although Marx did not develop an ethical theory and rejected its need or desirability, he did have moral or evaluative notions that guided his critique of capitalism and his advocacy of socialism. Marx was a moralist who had no moral theory, that is, he "advocates principles that are supposed to guide present-day social and political choice in the same way as a political morality" (Miller 1984, p. 51). In various writings, Marx refers to the misery and sufferings of the working class under capitalism, of the deadening and degrading nature of work created by the capitalist division of labor (and thus of the alienation and dehumanization of the worker), and of how capitalism "enforces on the laborer abstinence from all life's enjoyments" (Husami 1980, p. 43). The capitalist class receives all the material and intellectual benefits of society while the proletariat assumes all its burdens. Capitalism exploits the worker, and exploitation is variously described as robbery, embezzlement, plunder, and theft. Husami argues that these evaluative notions are tantamount to a conception of justice despite the fact that Marx formally rejected all talk of justice.

Marx also seemed to have a theory of distributive justice (Husami 1980). As set forth in Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875), the first phase of the new socialist society will be guided by the principle to each according to his abilities. Workers receive from society payment in accordance with the labor contribution they make. Individuals differ in their mental and physical endowments and some contribute more labor than others; those who contribute more receive more in return. But inequalities never become significant because society provides for every person's social needs (healthcare, education, and so on). Whatever inequalities do exist are not the result of power and class differences because private ownership of the means of production has been abolished.

But this first phase of socialist society, having just emerged from capitalist society, is still stamped with defects. There will emerge a higher phase of socialist or communist society, and "only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banner: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" (Marx 1978b, p. 531). In this phase, society takes into consideration the fact that individuals differ not only in their talents and abilities, but also in their needs. Because some individuals have greater needs than others, they should be rewarded accordingly. This highest form of socialist society is guided by the principle of full individual self-development, and as such must provide each person with the resources necessary for that development. Inequalities therefore remain. Again, however, these inequalities do not arise from class position (because there are no classes) and do not involve any exploitation. Moreover the inequalities are not great and do not affect the satisfaction of basic needs related to physical well-being and education, because these are automatically provided to everyone. (See Wood [1980] for a very different interpretation of Marx on justice. For an interpretation partway between Husami's and Wood's, see Brenkert [1980].)

Historical Failures and Legacy

The implications of Marx's thinking on science and technology are relatively minor, but his thought has enormous implications for an ethical assessment of society. Marx's predictions concerning future socialist revolutions and the content and nature of socialist society have been overwhelmingly repudiated by the past 100 years of history. Socialist revolutions occurred where Marx did not expect them, and utterly failed to occur in those places where he thought they would. And the so-called socialist societies that did develop were for the most part a grotesque deformation of what he expected. These failures lie both in a flawed theory of history—Marx badly misunderstood the historical trajectory of capitalism—and in a failure to appreciate the importance of a theory of justice and morality. Marx's view that political rights and liberties are merely expressions of a defective bourgeois mode of production, and as such will be irrelevant and unnecessary in a socialist mode of production, opened the way for, and gave license to, some of the most brutal dictatorial regimes in human history. Marx did not foresee this outcome, and certainly would have vehemently rejected it. The ideals may have been noble, but their actual implementation proved to be an entirely different matter.

Many different kinds of Marxism have developed since Marx's time, including the critical theory of the Frankfurt School (Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, Habermas), the Italian Marxism of Antonio Gramsci, French existentialist Marxism (Sartre), Wallerstein's world-system theory, and anticolonialist theory. Some of these are as different from one another, and from classical Marxism, as they are similar. Critical theory, for example, is highly critical of modern science and technology in a way that would have been inconceivable to Marx. In terms of ethics, a wide range of complex positions can be found.


SEE ALSO Alienation;Capitalism;Communism;Critical Social Theory;Freedom;Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich;Marxism;Political Economy;Socialism;Sociological Ethics;Work.


Brenkert, George G. (1980). "Freedom and Private Property in Marx." In Marx, Justice, and History, eds. Marshall Cohen; Thomas Nagel; and Thomas Scanlon. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. An attempt to map out a position on Marx and justice part way between the positions of Husami and wood.

Buchanan, Allen E. (1982). Marx and Justice: The Radical Critique of Liberalism. Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Allanheld. Takes the position that Marx had no formal theory of justice or rights and disdained any discussion of such with respect to the virtues of socialism.

Cohen, Marshall; Thomas Nagel; and Thomas Scanlon, eds. (1980). Marx, Justice, and History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. An important collection of essays on the role of justice in Marx's thinking.

Engels, Friedrich. (1978). "Speech at the Graveside of Karl Marx." In The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker. Text originally published in 1883.

Husami, Ziyad I. (1980). "Marx on Distributive Justice." In Marx, Justice, and History, eds. Marshall Cohen; Thomas Nagel; and Thomas Scanlon. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Sets forth the position that Marx had a theory of justice (including two principles of distributive justice) and judged capitalism to be unjust.

Marx, Karl. (1967 [1867]). Capital, Vol. 1, trans. Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling. New York: International Publishers. The most important volume of Marx's great work in which he sets forth the laws of functioning of capitalist society and its evolution.

Marx, Karl. (1967 [1885]). Capital, Vol. 2, ed. Friedrich Engels. New York: International Publishers.

Marx, Karl. (1967 [1894]). Capital, Vol. 3, ed. Friedrich Engels. New York: International Publishers.

Marx, Karl. (1978a). "Critique of the Gotha Programme." In The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker. Text originally published in 1875. An important discussion by Marx of the place of human abilities and needs in the future socialist society.

Marx, Karl. (1978b). "Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844" In The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker. Text originally published in 1844. Youthful essays written by Marx on such topics as alienation, private property and communism, and Hegelian philosophy.

Marx, Karl. (1978c). "On the Jewish Question." In The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker. Text originally published in 1843. A famous essay in which Marx draws an important distinction between political freedom and human freedom. The famous early essay on the coming of communist society, including a brief sketch of its principles of organization.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. (1970 [1845–1846]). The German Ideology, ed. C. J. Arthur. New York: International Publishers. The work in which Marx and Engels lay out their general theory of society and history, historical materialism.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. (1978). "Manifesto of the Communist Party." In The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker. Text originally published in 1848.

Miller, Richard W. (1984). Analyzing Marx: Morality, Power, and History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. An extremely important book that critically examines the nature of historical materialism and the extent to which the concept of justice played an important role in Marx's critique of capitalism.

Tucker, Robert C., ed. (1978). The Marx-Engels Reader, rev. edition. New York: Norton. An excellent collection of selections from all of the important works of Marx and Engels.

Wood, Allen W. (1980). "The Marxian Critique of Justice." In Marx, Justice, and History, ed. Marshall Cohen; Thomas Nagel; and Thomas Scanlon. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Argues that Marx had no formal theory of justice and did not condemn capitalism as unjust.

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