Course:SOCI 1110/Karl Marx

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Early Life and Education

Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1818. He was born in Trier, Germany, to middle-class parents Heinrich Marx and Henrietta Pressburg. Both parents had came from long lines of rabbis. Heinrich Marx was pursuing a career in law and shortly before Marx's birth, he was baptized and converted to Christianity, as he would not be able to have a successful law career while facing Prussia's anti-Jewish laws. Marx was baptized in the Lutheran church six years after his birth. At the age of 18, Marx became engaged to Jenny von Westphalen, the daughter of a prominent aristocrat in Trier society, Ludwig von Westphalen.

From 1830 until 1835, Marx attended high school in Trier. In October of 1835, Marx enrolled in the University of Bonn. There he studied courses in the Humanities and Art Histories. Marx also joined the Poets' Club that included political activism, and Tavern Club drinking society while at Bonn. The summer of 1836, Marx became engaged to Jenny von Westphalen, whom Marx had known since childhood. After only a year at the University of Bonn, Marx was encouraged by his father to pursue a more serious education in law at the University of Berlin. It was around this time that he was introduced to Hegel's philosophy, eventually joining the Doctor's Club which discussed many ideas based around Hegel's ideals. This club soon became involved with the Young Hegelians movement. The Doctor's Club was headed by Bruno Bauer and Ludwig Feuerbach. Marx had begun writing by 1837, producing novels of fiction and non-fiction, as well as poems, none of these works were published however. Marx's doctoral thesis, The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature, was advised by Bruno Bauer and completed in 1841. After facing controversy from the conservative University of Berlin, Marx took his thesis to the University of Jena. Marx was awarded his PhD in April 1841.

Major Accomplishments

One of Marx's first writing series were the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844). Marx wrote these series in Paris, and were not published until the 1930s. In these works, Marx displayed influence from Ludwig Feuerbach's philosophy and described a humanist take on communism. Another one of Marx's writings, The German Ideology had the thesis that "the nature of individuals depends on the material conditions determining their production." Marx and lifelong friend Friedrich Engels had become the major theoreticians of the Communist League, and were commissioned to write the League's position declaration near the end of 1847. The Communist Manifesto was barely published before waves of revolutions started happening in Europe in 1848. The Class Struggles in France and The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte were written France's 1848 revolution and the aftermath. One of Marx's larger pieces was the Grundrisse, a three-volume writing that analyzes Marx's views of capitalism, as well as the topics of production, distribution, exchange, alienation, value, and labor.

Contributions to Sociology

Karl Marx's greatest contribution to society is his method of analyzing class relations and the theory that the capitalist system will be eventually subjected to a socialist order and classless society following the dictatorship of the proletariat. This view is now known as Marxism. Marxism philosophies are related by the ideas of philosophical anthropology, historical theory, and economic structure.

Significant Happenings During Marx's Lifetime

  • Deaths:

Ludwig van Beethoven, 1827 Edgar Allan Poe, 1849 Abraham Lincoln, 1865 Charles Darwin, 1882

  • Births:

Walt Whitman, 1819 Chief Joseph, 1840

1824 - Mexico becomes a republic. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. 1826 - The world's first photograph is captured by Joseph-Nicephore Niepce 1837- Victoria becomes Great Britain's queen. 1840 - Lower and upper Canada unite. 1841 - U.S President Harrison dies one month after inauguration. 1846 - U.S declares war on Mexico 1848 - Revolt in Paris, Louis Philippe abdicates, Louis Napoleon elected president of French Republic. 1851 - Moby-Dick written by Herman Melville. 1861 - U.S Civil War. 1873 - Economic Crisis in Europe. 1876 - General George A. Custer and 264 troopers killed by Sioux at Little Big Horn River. Telephone is patented by Alexander Graham Bell. 1879 - Thomas Edison invents the lightbulb. 1883 - Brooklyn Bridge and Metropolitan Opera House completed.

Marx's Role and Relation to His World

Marx had plenty of influential factors in his personal life growing up. One of the most major influences in his education and career was his father, a Christian and a lawyer, who advised Marx to pursue his own career in the serious studies of law and philosophy. Perhaps without this influence, Marx would have continued on with his original interest in the Humanities, studying mythology and art. Marx also had atheist views of the world, and this perhaps gave him his logical and analytical view of societies class systems and labor value. Most of Marx's writing were written for or influenced by the Communist revolution.


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The Famous People.

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