Karl Marx, born in 1818, was one of the most influential and subsequently, controversial theorists of his time. He was born in Prussia and studied economics and law at the collegiate level; however, he was far more than an economist. Instead, his theories are applicable to the world of philosophy, sociology, anthropology, political science, psychology and journalism in addition to economics. Even after his death in 1883, his theories have continued to shape the way economists think about social structure. He left behind a litany of works including his most seminal book, The Communist Manifesto. A co-writer Fredrich Engles even published some of their works posthumously including multiple volumes called Capitol. Additionally, Marx’s poetry, journalism and other articles and books such as, The Civil War in France, The Civil War in the United States and The Poverty of Philosophy (Sayers, 2015). Though his works improved in form and developed more in depth ideas over time, throughout most of his career he espoused that culture is in conflict because of the disparaging differences in socioeconomic status between the upper class and the working class.
One of the reason Marx’s writings were so passionate is because many were influenced by his upbringing in a large middle class family. One of nine children, his family was certainly not without struggle. As such, it is no surprise that the essence of his theory surrounds the contradiction between the working class and the upper class. He particularly criticized economic systems such as capitalism for taking advantage of families such as his. In such a system, his concern was that the upper class holds the majority of the power and economic surplus while middle and lower class individuals are largely responsible for production. This inequality, he presumed would lead to social revolt in which the providers overturn the few individuals and businesses located at the top of the economic period (Hornborg, 2014). What should result post this insurrection is a concept since deemed socialism, in which there is a more equal distribution of wealth across the population.
Aside from his social position at birth, there are many reasons why Karl Marx’s history predicated his writings and philosophies. He was not always a successful man in the strict sense of the word. He partied while in school at the University of Boon until his father forced him to move on to the University of Berlin where he began to take school more seriously. While there he met other students who were radical thinkers which marked one of the first times he came into conflict with legal systems. Eventually he would be exiled from his home in Prussia for being the editor of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, a paper that disseminated his Communist ideals (Sayers, 2015). It was not until he met the aforementioned writing partner Engels who, quite literally, saved him from the dredges of poverty. Together they started the International Workingman’s Association to collaborate with other like-minded people in the hope that they could change the world into becoming a socialist place (Hornborg, 2014). Even with the support of others, Marx had a tumultuous lifestyle in which he partook in drug and alcohol abuse which, more than likely contributed to his death.
One of the reasons Marx’s works were so considered so powerful is because some saw them as an almost religious experience. Marx himself lived his adult life as an atheist despite growing up with influences from the Jewish religion and, post the age of six, Lutheranism. He considered material possessions to be the only real thing in life. Thus, in protecting material possessions for the majority, Marx was protecting individual realities. Whether one agrees with his theories or not, there is no denying that they have influenced major changes in the way people think about the economy to this very day.
- Hornborg, A. (2014). Ecological economics, Marxism, and technological progress: Some explorations of the conceptual foundations of theories of ecologically unequal exchange. Ecological Economics, 105, 11-18.
- Sayers, S. (2015). Marx as a Critic of Liberalism. In Constructing Marxist Ethics (pp. 144-164). Brill.Sayers, S. (2015). Marx as a Critic of Liberalism. In Constructing Marxist Ethics (pp. 144-164). Brill.