Karl Marx


August 13, 2022

Karl Heinrich Marx (Trier, May 5, 1818 – London, March 14, 1883) was a German thinker who strongly influenced (political) philosophy, economics, sociology, journalism and historiography. He was a founder of the labor movement and a central figure in the history of socialism and communism. Marx lived and worked in Germany, France, Belgium, and England. He shared his eventful life with his wife Jenny von Westphalen and with his friend Friedrich Engels, who supported him throughout his life – including financially – and who prepared his works for the press after Marx's death. Das Kapital (or in Dutch: Het Kapitaal) is usually regarded as Marx's most important work. In addition, his Communist Manifesto (with Friedrich Engels) is world famous. Marxism is based on the work and ideas of Karl Marx (and Friedrich Engels).


Youth and student days

Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1818 in Trier, the son of the lawyer Heinrich Marx (1782 - 1838) and Henriëtte Presburg. Henriëtte Presburg was born and raised in Nijmegen. That Marx was actually in Nijmegen at least once is apparent from a letter from his parents from 1836. He was then 17 years old and studied law in Bonn. Trier was regarded as the most cosmopolitan region of Germany, because until 1814 it was part of the First French Empire had heard. The region experienced an economic downturn due to the poor performance of the local vineyards. A quarter of the population lived on poor relief, and socialist theories such as those of Saint-Simon and Fourier found support. Marx's parents were originally Jewish and both came from rabbinic families. Heinrich Marx was formerly called Hirschel Mardochai, but converted to Protestantism and changed his name. Conversion was not a big step for Father Marx; he was a liberal, influenced by the French Revolution, not a professed Jew, and in retrospect probably not a professed Christian. Karl grew up in a family that was wealthy, but not wealthy. Karl completed the gymnasium in Trier in 1835. The essay "A young man's reflection on the choice of a profession" written for his exam has been preserved. In October 1835, Marx went to study law at the University of Bonn. There was not much to study because he spent more time on student life. After a year, Karl's father decided that it was better for him to study in Berlin, at the University of Berlin, which was somewhat better regarded than that of Bonn. Meanwhile, Karl became engaged (initially secretly) to Jenny von Westphalen. In Berlin, the young Marx became more interested in intellectual matters and switched from law to philosophy. He immersed himself in the ideas of Immanuel Kant and Johann Gottlieb Fichte, but became especially strongly influenced by Georg Hegel. Hegel himself had died in 1831, but his philosophy dominated the university even more after his death than when he was alive. Different movements emerged among his students. Some were very conservative (Hegelian philosophy at that time was still considered the Prussian state philosophy), but there were also leftist students. Marx felt akin to the latter, sometimes called the Young Hegelians: Bruno Bauer, Arnold Ruge. They were especially critical of religion. Marx decided not to defend his thesis in Berlin because it would be poorly received, because of his negative reputation as a Young Hegelian. For this reason Marx went to the University of Jena and obtained his doctorate there in 1841 on "The difference between the natural philosophy of Democritus and Epicurus". After finishing his studies, Marx moved to Bonn. Here he hoped for an appointment as a university lecturer. However, he failed to do so in conservative Bonn. Marx then became a journalist. 1842 - 1843: