Karl Marx

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Karl Marx
Portrait of comrade Marx.
Karl Heinrich Marx

(1818-05-05)5 May 1818
Trier, Kingdom of Prussia, German Confederation
Died14 March 1883(1883-03-14) (aged 64)
London, United Kingdon
NationalityPrussian (1818–1845)
Stateless (after 1845)
Known forDeveloping a line of political thought known as Marxism
Field of studyPhilosophy, science, political economy, history

Karl Marx (5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a 19th century German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary who, alongside his friend and long-time collaborator Frederick Engels, discovered the laws of development of human societies based on the dialectical materialist method and in doing so creating Marxism.

Marx is the most important thinker of the communist movement. He highlighted the contradictions and intrinsic exploitation in capitalism, and helped develop socialist economic models. His most famous works, the Communist Manifesto, which he co-wrote with Engels in 1848, and Capital, the first volume of which was completed in 1867, have had enormous international influence.


Early life

Marx was born May 5, 1818 in the small town of Trier, in the south of Rhenish Prussia, in what is today Germany, on the borders with France. At the time, Trier had only 12 thousand residents, and from 1798 to 1814, and the city belonged to France, which changed after Napoleon's defeat and Prussian annexation of the region.[1] He was the third of the nine children, of Heinrich and Henriette Marx, and belonged to the prosperous Jewish petty bourgeois of Trier. Heinrich Marx did not follow the religious tradition, and converted to Protestantism. Heinrich Marx also had a good reputation with the Prussian government.[2]

Karl Marx's family had a relationship with the Westphalen family, an aristocratic family with ties to the Prussian government, and during Marx's teenage years, had a friendship with the baron Johann Ludwig von Westphalen, who admired the brilliance of the young Karl Marx, and the children of the Westphalen family, Laura, Edgar and Jenny von Westphalen (1814 – 1881), which would later become Marx's longtime partner and wife.[2]

From 1830 to 1835, Marx studied on the Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium, a public secondary education school which prepared students to university. There, some teachers taught an openly rationalist and discretely liberal views. At the time, liberal philosophy was associated with revolutionary ideals and a romantic sentiment towards the French Revolution, both of which was frowned upon by the Prussian government. The Trier Gymnasium only accepted male students and relied on classical training, focusing on the study of Greek and Latin along with a third foreign language, and French was chosen by Karl Marx.[2]

University education, relationship with Jenny

After graduating with a good school performance on the Trier Gymnasium, Marx entered the university, spending two semesters in the University of Bonn from 1835 to 1836. Marx's father disapproved of his son's drinking and bohemian lifestyle and persuaded him to transfer to the University of Berlin, at the time a well-established and highly respected university. There, he studied Law, majoring in History and Philosophy and concluded his university course in 1841, submitting a doctoral thesis on the philosophy of Epicurus. At the time Marx was a Hegelian idealist in his views and belonged to the circle of “Left Hegelians”, along with Bruno Bauer and others.[3]

Later years

In Marx's later years, he produced anthropological studies, despite difficulties in his personal life which prevented him from finishing much of his work.[4][5]

Ideological Sources

The intellectual traditions that Marx drew on most were German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism.[6]

His main sources in German philosophy were:

  1. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
  2. Ludwig Feuerbach
  3. Bruno Bauer
  4. Max Stirner

in English political economy:

  1. Adam Smith
  2. David Ricardo

and in French socialism:

  1. Henri de Saint-Simon
  2. Charles Fourier
  3. Robert Owen

Library works


  1. Konder, Leandro (1999). Marx: Life and work (Portuguese: Marx: Vida e obra). São Paulo: Expressão Popular, 2015. ISBN 978-85-7743-259-2
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Netto, José Paulo (2020). Karl Marx: a biography (Portuguese: Karl Marx: uma biografia). São Paulo: Boitempo. ISBN 978-65-5717-033-5
  3. Lenin (1914). Karl Marx: A brief biographical sketch with an exposition of Marxism. marxists.org link
  4. Carlos L. Garrido. "The Last Years of Karl Marx" Midwestern Marx.
  5. Carlos L. Garrido. "Book Review: The Last Years of Karl Marx: An Intellectual Biography. By: Marcello Musto. Reviewed By: Carlos L. Garrido" Midwestern Marx.
  6. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1913-03) The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism