Karl Marx

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KARL MARX:

A CRITICAL PROFILE

1. Contribution

Like Charles Darwin (1809-82), his contemporary, Karl Marx (1818-83) has had a profound impact on modern thought. This German philosopher, social scientist, and professional revolutionary formulated a theory of social change that influenced most modern forms of socialism and communism. Marx pioneered conflict theory. Motivated by a belief in human emancipation, he tried to discover a way to free people from the social, political, and economic constraints that prevent them from reaching their full potential. Marx used to say: Philosophers explain only; critical theorists translated theory into practice.

2. Early life

Marx grew up in Trier, Prussia, the son of Jewish lawyer who converted to Christianity in order to keep his job. During the period 1835-41, he studied (in 1835) law at the University of Bon and he studied (in 1837) philosophy at the University of Berlin, falling under the influence of the idealist philosopher G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), who interpreted the whole of history as the process by which "Spirit" (and consequently humanity) progressed towards complete self-knowledge and a "rational" and "free" society. Marx looked to Hegel for help in uncovering the principle that would explain historical change; he wanted to know how slavery gave way to feudalism and how feudalism gave way to capitalism. About this time, he joined a group of leftist radical socialists who attacked the Prussian government. He graduated (in 1841) Ph.D. at the University of Jena, but could not obtain a university teaching job because of his subversive views.

During the period 1842-48, Marx made his living as a free-lance journalist and political activist. For a while, he wrote for the R...

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...e. He predicted the revolutions that came later, but he misread the proletariat altogether; peasants make revolutions, the proletariat do not. Marx's dialectical materialism, combined with semiotics, offers social scientists a powerful tool for studying the political signification of every facet of contemporary culture, including television, film, music, fashion, and sports. They show how people absorb capitalist values via political rhetoric, news reporting, advertising, and public relations.

6. Works Cited

Engels, Fr. "Karl Marx's Funeral." 1999. Available at: http://www.ex.ac.uk/Projects/meia/Archive/1883-Death/dersoz1.htm

Karl Marx: Timeline (the Marx/Engels Internet Archive). 1999. Available at http://tqd.advanced.org/3376/MARX2.htm

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. 1967. The Communist Manifesto (1848), introduced by A.J.P. Taylor. London: Penguin Books.

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