Karl Marx: His Books, Theories, and Impact

About Karl Marx:

Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a philosopher, author, social theorist, and economist. He is famous for his theories about capitalism, socialism, and communism.

Marx, in conjunction with Friedrich Engels, published The Communist Manifesto in 1848; later in life, he wrote Das Kapital (the first volume was published in Berlin in 1867; the second and third volumes were published posthumously in 1885 and 1894, respectively), which discussed the labor theory of value.

  • Karl Marx was a prominent thinker who wrote on topics related to economics, political economy, and society.
  • Born in Germany, Marx spent much of his time in London, where he wrote many famous works, including The Communist Manifesto and Capital (Das Kapital).
  • Marx often collaborated with long-time friend and social theorist Friedrich Engels.
  • Marx is known for his revolutionary writings favoring socialism and a communist revolution.
  • While Marxism and Marxian economics have been largely rejected by the mainstream today, many of Marx’s critiques of capitalism remain relevant today.

    Early Life and Education:

    Born in Trier, Prussia (now Germany), on May 5, 1818, Marx was the son of a successful Jewish lawyer who converted to Lutheranism before Marx’s birth. Marx studied law in Bonn and Berlin, where he was introduced to the philosophy of G.W.F. Hegel.

    He became involved in radicalism at a young age through the Young Hegelians, a group of students who criticized the political and religious establishments of the day. Marx received his doctorate from the University of Jena in 1841. His radical beliefs prevented him from securing a teaching position, so instead, he took a job as a journalist and later became the editor of Rheinische Zeitung, a liberal newspaper in Cologne.

    Marx’s Theories:

    Marx was inspired by classical political economists such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo, while his own branch of economics, Marxian economics, is not favored among modern mainstream thought. Nevertheless, Marx’s ideas have greatly impacted societies, most prominently in communist projects such as those in the USSR, China, and Cuba. Among modern thinkers, Marx is still very influential in the fields of sociology, political economy, and strands of heterodox economics.

    In general, Marx claimed there are two major flaws inherent in capitalism that lead to the exploitation of workers by employers: the chaotic nature of free market competition and the extraction of surplus labor. Ultimately, Marx predicted that capitalism would eventually destroy itself as more people become relegated to working-class status, inequality rose, and competition would lead the rate of corporate profits to zero. This would lead, he surmised, to a revolution where production would be turned over to the working class as a whole.

Historical Materialism:

Another important theory developed by Marx is known as historical materialism. This theory posits that society at any given point in time is ordered by the type of technology used in production. Under industrial capitalism, society is ordered, with capitalists organizing labor in factories or offices where they work for wages.

Prior to capitalism, Marx suggested that feudalism existed as a specific set of social relations between lord and peasant classes related to the hand-powered or animal-powered means of production prevalent at the time.

What Is Karl Marx’s Main Theory?

Karl Marx’s theories on communism and capitalism formed the basis of Marxism. His key theories were a critique of capitalism and its shortcomings. Marx thought that the capitalistic system would inevitably destroy itself. The oppressed workers would become alienated and ultimately overthrow the owners to take control of the means of production themselves, ushering in a classless society.

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