Day 21: Karl Marx (1818–1883)


Known for his critique of capitalism and his theory of historical materialism.

Biography of Karl Marx

Karl Marx, born on May 5, 1818, in Trier, Prussia (now Germany), is a towering figure in the history of political thought and economics, whose ideas have profoundly shaped the course of modern history. The son of a lawyer and a descendant of a long line of rabbis, Marx studied law and philosophy at the universities of Bonn and Berlin. During his studies, he was introduced to the ideas of Hegel, which would greatly influence his own theoretical framework. Despite initially pursuing an academic career, Marx’s radical views soon put him at odds with the political authorities, leading to a life of exile. Alongside his lifelong collaborator Friedrich Engels, Marx settled in London, where he devoted himself to writing and political activism, struggling with poverty and illness throughout his life. He died on March 14, 1883, in London, leaving behind a body of work that continues to inspire, challenge, and provoke debate across the globe.

Major Ideas and Contributions

Marx’s critique of capitalism and his theory of historical materialism form the core of his intellectual legacy. He argued that all human history is the history of class struggles, where the economic and material conditions of society determine the structure and development of social classes and their relations. According to Marx, capitalism, characterized by the ownership of the means of production by a capitalist class (bourgeoisie) and the exploitation of the working class (proletariat), would inevitably lead to class conflict and the eventual overthrow of the capitalist system, paving the way for a socialist and, ultimately, a communist society where property is communally owned.

Marx’s analysis of capitalism focuses on the concepts of surplus value, alienation, and the commodification of labor, highlighting the systemic inequalities and injustices inherent in capitalist societies. His vision for a communist future is one where workers are no longer alienated from their labor, the means of production, or each other, leading to a classless, stateless society governed by the principle of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

Major Works

  • The Communist Manifesto: Co-authored with Friedrich Engels, this pamphlet lays out the principles of Marxism, calling for the proletariat’s global uprising.
  • Das Kapital: Marx’s magnum opus, a critical analysis of political economy and capitalism, exploring its economic mechanisms, dynamics, and contradictions.
  • The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon: An analysis of the class struggles leading to the 1851 coup in France, illustrating Marx’s theory of history and class struggle.

Influence and Legacy

Marx’s ideas have had a profound and lasting impact on global politics, economics, philosophy, and culture. His critique of capitalism and vision for a socialist future inspired numerous political movements and revolutions throughout the 20th century, notably in Russia, China, and Cuba, among others. While the practical implementations of his ideas have been contentious and often diverged significantly from his original theories, the analytical tools Marx developed for understanding capitalist societies remain influential in academic and political discourse.

Fun Facts

  1. Polyglot: Marx was proficient in several languages, including German, French, English, Italian, Spanish, and Russian, which facilitated his extensive research and correspondence.
  2. Personal Struggles: Despite his profound impact on world history, Marx faced financial instability and health problems throughout his life.
  3. Enduring Influence: More than a century after his death, Marx was voted the “greatest philosopher” in a 2005 poll conducted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).


Karl Marx’s legacy is a testament to the power of ideas to change the world. Whether viewed as a visionary prophet or a controversial figure, his critique of capitalism and his vision for a more equitable society continue to resonate with millions of people seeking justice and equality in the global economic system.



Ali Khan
Bite-Sized Wisdom: 30 Philosophers in 30 Days

Techie. Infovore. Forever Curious. Building Things. Here to share a few of my deliberate perspectives.