Summary: a Life Path of Karl Marx


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Karl Marx was born in Trier, Germany on May 5, 1818. Marx grew up in a comfortable middle-class household, his father having been a respected lawyer after converting from Judaism to Protestantism. At 17, Marx enrolled at the University of Bonn to start his legal studies, following in the footsteps of his father. Marx later went to the University of Berlin, where he was first introduced to the work of German philosopher Friedrich Hegel and his philosophy of dialectical idealism. One of Hegel’s primary arguments was that unity would only be reached by the balancing of oppositions by use of dialectics of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Marx was impressed with Hegel’s work and eventually joined the Young Hegelian movement. Following the death of his father, Marx decided to earn a doctorate in the hopes of becoming a university professor. After submitting his thesis, which was a fierce critique of spiritualism that argued material reality produces thoughts in humans, not the other way around, Marx was unable to find a teaching position. In 1842, he found a job as an editor for a newspaper were, he wrote editorials, which eventually led to the newspaper shutting down due to pressure from the Prussians. Quickly after the newspaper shutdown, Marx and his fiancé moved to Paris, France.

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In Paris, Marx began making contact with radicals, including one of his prior influencers, Friedrich Hegel. Together, Marx and Engels made a good team, each bringing different skills to the table, Marx with his conceptualization and abstraction skills and Engels having the ability to communicate ideas to the public. In 1844, Marx was expelled from France and moved to Brussels, Belgium, while Engels moved to England. In Brussels, Marx joined the Communist League, quickly becoming a major theoretician for the organization and being commissioned, along with Engels, to write the program for the organization, The Communist Manifesto. Quickly following the publishing of the program, the revolutionary wave spread across Europe due to the rise of industrial capitalism and the rapid urbanization of the population as a whole. Capitalism was leading to rapid economic expansion but was leaving many in poverty of the working classes causing conflicts to occur between the classes. In 1848, Marx moved back to Paris, then moved onto Germany where he published a paper opposing the Prussian autocracy which led to a massive revolt. Inevitably Marx was forced to flee to London, England to avoid arrest for his controversial work and remained here until the end of his life.

Despite all of his problems with finding supporters and avoiding imprisonment, Marx continued on, and in 1867, he published the first volume of Capital. Capital is a detailed analysis of capitalism and explains how it creates poverty and worker alienation. He also touches on issues of revolution, concluding that capitalism is essentially creating conditions that will lead to its ultimate destruction. In 1871, Marx was working on the second volume of Capital, but had to be completed by Engels due to Marx’s health deterioration, leading to his death in 1883.  

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