Biography of Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, social scientist, and revolutionist whose writings formed the beginning of the basic ideas known as Marxism. Although he was largely disregarded by scholars in his own lifetime, his social, economic and political ideas gained rapid acceptance in the socialist movement after his death. With the help of Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx created much of the theory of socialism and communism that we know today.
Karl Marx was born in Trier, Germany, on May 5, 1818 to Hirshel and Henrietta Marx. Hirshel Marx was a Jewish lawyer and in order to escape anti-Semitism, he chose to abandon his Jewish faith when Karl was only six years old. Even though the majority of people living in Trier were Catholics, Hirshel Marx decided to become a Protestant. The family converted to Protestantism in 18241.
After graduating from the Friedrich-William Gymnasium High School in Trier, Marx entered Bonn University where he studied law and majored in history and philosophy2. He planned to follow his father and become a lawyer—however he soon transferred to the more serious University of Berlin where he remained for four years. He concluded his university course in 1841 after submitting his thesis on the philosophy of Epicurius. While at Berlin, he was introduced to the writings of G. W. F. Hegel and his theory that “a thing or thought could not be separated from its opposite.” The anti-religion and anti-autocracy philosophies of Hegel led Marx to join a radical group known as the Young Hegelians3.
After graduating from Berlin University, Marx moved to Paris, hoping to become a professor. Unfortunately, things did not work out the way he had hoped, and so he turned to journalism instead. Marx became editor of the Rheinische Zeitung in Cologne, a liberal democratic newspaper where he wrote articles on freedom of the press and on religion in politics. These articles were critical about the government. Not long after it was published, the Prussian government banned the newspaper in 184344.
With rumors circulating that he may be arrested, Marx then left for Paris and married Jenny von Westphalen, one of his childhood friends, whom he was engaged with for seven years 5. There, Marx began studying political economy and the history of the French Revolution. At this time, Marx teamed with a man named Arnold Ruge to publish the radical journal Deutsch-Franzosiche Jarbucher. Ruge had also been affiliated with the Young Hegelians, and was a very politically oriented man. An arguement with Ruge because of their political differences brought their relationship to an end as well as the journal’s end; Ruge stayed a liberal while Marx was becoming a communist revolutionary6.
In 1845, Marx moved to Brussels, Belgium, and continued his studies. He had previously made friends with Friedrich Engels, the son of a wealthy cotton spinner who also had been a Young Hegelian. They collaborated on...