Karl Marx

Karl Marx’s Biography and Contributions to Sociology

The first of our classic visions of society comes from the philosopher, social scientist, and historian, Karl Marx. Karl Heinrich Marx was born in Trier, Rhenish Prussia (present-day Germany), on May 5, 1818. Although his family was Jewish, they converted to Christianity so that his father could pursue his career as a lawyer in the face of Prussia's anti-Jewish laws (Wolff, 2011). At the age of seventeen, Marx enrolled in the Faculty of Law at the University of Bonn, as it was his father's desire that he become a lawyer (Kreis, 2008). Marx, however, was more interested in philosophy and literature than in law. He spent a year at Bonn, studying little but partying and drinking a lot. He also piled up heavy debts.
The following year Marx's father sent him to the University of Berlin, where he became interested in the philosophical ideas of the Young Hegelians. In Berlin, a circle of brilliant thinkers challenged existing institutions and ideas, including religion, philosophy, ethics, and politics. Marx joined this group of radical thinkers wholeheartedly. He spent more than four years in Berlin, completing his studies with a doctoral degree in March 1841. Following the completion of his studies, he became a journalist in Cologne. In October 1842, he became editor of the influential Rheinische Zeitung, a radical newspaper backed by industrialists, where he began to use Hegelian concepts of dialectical materialism to influence his ideas on socialism. However, the Berlin government prohibited the paper from being published (Kreis, 2008).
In 1843, Marx moved to Paris and rapidly made contact with organized groups of exiled German workers and with various sects of French socialists. He also edited the short-lived Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher that was intended to bridge French socialism and the German radical Hegelians. During his first few months in Paris, Marx became a communist and set down his views in a...