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Karl Marx (1818 - 1883)

Updated Monday, 1st April 2002
Introducing the life and thoughts of Karl Marx

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Karl Marx's grave

Born in Prussia, Marx was educated at the Universities of Bonn and Berlin, graduating in 1841. Two years later he had married and moved to Paris where he soon became a revolutionary and a communist. It was here that he met Friedrich Engels, who was to become his life long friend and writing partner. In 1845 Marx was expelled from France and took refuge in Brussels (where he renounced his Prussian nationality) before eventually taking up residence in London, where he was to spend the rest of his life.

Although sometimes regarded simply as a revolutionary, Marx’s work clearly outlines a distinct philosophy. In The Communist Manifesto (1848, co-authored with Engels), he attacked morality as being defined by the prejudices of the bourgeois, created to serve the interests of the ruling class. Only in a society without classes could morality serve the interest of all, rather than the few.

Marx developed a sophisticated understanding of capitalism, as a social system ruled by the exchange of commodities, which is based on the interests of the bourgeoisie ruling classes. He was concerned with the flourishing of our 'species being', our productive and communal nature.

Marx described capitalism as a society of mutual competition and highlighted the potential for a conflict between the interest of the individual and the interest of society as a whole. Trust, according to Marx, would be difficult to establish and maintain in a capitalist society. He prescribed the abolition of private property in order to resolve the clash of interests and enable true community.

Marx felt that simply discussing the problems of capitalist society was not enough. Only through action could a solution could be found, in the form of a Communist Society. He wrote, 'The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.' - words which became his epitaph, carved into his tombstone in Highgate Cemetery.


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