Marx Karl

Marx, Karl (1818-83), German socialist, economist and sociologist. Born of Jewish parents; converted to Christianity. He decided on an academic career and studied at the Universities of Bonn and Berlin. While a student he came into contact with a group of Hegelian philosophers who represented the foremost intellectuals and social critics in Germany. He soon became dissatisfied with the scope of Hegelian philosophy and sought a more practical form of social criticism. His radical views made a university career impossible, and he was forced to take up journalism. For a while he worked on the newspaper Rheinise lie Zeitwng, eventually becoming editor, but the strict censorship which prevailed at that time caused the suppression of the newspaper, and Marx fled to Paris. There he worked for a while as editor of the Deutsch-franzosische Jahrbucher, and contributed two interesting articles, a critique of Hegelian philosophy and a statement of his view on the class struggle and the nature of the revolution.

His growing interest in political economy was encouraged by his friendship with Friedrich Engels, who came from a wealthy family of Manchester textile manufacturers. Engels had studied the theories of the English classical school, and his critique of their system influenced Marx. They became lifelong friends. In 1845 Marx moved to Brussels, where he made his first contribution to economics, La Mis�re de la phi!osophie (1847). The Communist Manifesto, written jointly by Marx and Engels, was published in 1848. In that year Marx returned to Germany; after playing an active part in the revolutions he again went into exile, this time to Britain where, apart from a few visits to the Continent, he remained for the rest of his life.

Marx had witnessed the social distress that accompanied Germany's transition to industrialism, and his experiences in Britain led him to believe that the optimistic faith in the free enterprise system held by orthodox economists was unfounded. During his years in Britain he made a systematic study of existing literature on political economy in the British Museum. In 1859 he published his Critique of Political Economy, which contained the essence of his economic theories developed later in his famous work Capital. The first volume appeared in 1867; later volumes were collected and edited by Engels after Marx's death, the second appearing in 1885 and the third in 1894. The tripartite fourth volume was not published until 2004-10.

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Since then his writings have in turn been increasingly reinterpreted as a special case both by some followers and by some economists who had not wholly accepted his writings. The content of economics is in a state of change, and this site is therefore not a final statement of economic doctrine.

Economics is in the last resort a technique of thinking. The reader will therefore need to make an intellectual effort, more substantial for some web entries than for others, to get the most interest and value out of this website.