Karl Heinrich Marx (1818–1883), a German philosopher, political economist, and journalist. Marx explored the idea that society and history are shaped by economic conflict, leading to the development of Marxism. Specifically, Marx contended that class conflict between the bourgeoisie (owners of the means of production) and proletariat (wage earners) shaped society. Two of his most notable works are The Communist Manifesto (1848), written with Friedrich Engels, which systematically outlined of the political doctrine of communism and Das Kapital (1867), which critiqued capitalism.
Karl Marx Pronunciation
Syllabification: karl marx
International Phonetic Alphabet
- American English – /kɑrl mɑrks/
- British English – /kɑːl mɑːks/
- Marx’s ideas along with those of Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) and Max Weber (1864–1920) played a significant role in the development and growth of the social sciences.
Works by Marx
- Marx, Karl. Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy.
- Marx, Karl.  1872. Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen Oekonomie. Hamburg, Germany: Verlag von O. Meissner.
- Note: Full title in German: Das Kapital, Kritik der politischen Ökonomie; English Translation: Capital: Critique of Political Economy
- Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. “Theses on Feuerbach.”
- Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. 1946. The German Ideology.
- Note: (German: Die Deutsche Ideologie)
- Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels.  2017. The Communist Manifesto. London: Pluto Press.
- Note: Originally titled Manifesto of the Communist Party (German: Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei).
- “Though Marx is often identified with the communist revolutions and social governments that appeared in many nations in the 20th century, Marx actually had little to say about communism or socialism. Marx was a utopian who centered his attention on capitalism and its internal dynamics, assuming that when socialism replaced capitalism many of world’s problems would disappear” (Hughes and Kroehler 2008:12).
- “What are social classes in Marxist theory? They are groups of social agents, of men defined principally but not exclusively by their place in the production process, i.e. by their place in the economic sphere. The economic place of the social agents has a principal role in determining social classes. But from that we cannot conclude that this economic place is sufficient to determine social classes. Marxism states that the economic does indeed have the determinant role in a mode of production or a social formation; but the political and the ideological (the superstructure) also have an important role. For whenever Marx, Engels, Lenin and Mao analyse social classes, far from limiting themselves to the economic criteria alone, they make explicit reference to political and ideological criteria. We can thus say that a social class is defined by its place in the ensemble of social practices, i.e. by its place in the ensemble of the division of labour which includes political and ideological relations. This place corresponds to the structural determination of classes, i.e. the manner in which determination by the structure (relations of production, politico-ideological domination/subordination) operates on class practices – for classes have existence only in the class struggle” (Poulantzas 1973:27).
- Carlisle, Rodney P., and James H. Lide. 2002. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Communism. Indianapolis: Alpha.
- Fine, Bob. 1984. Democracy and the Rule of Law: Liberal Ideals and Marxist Critiques. London: Pluto Press.
- Heilbroner, Robert L. 1980. Marxism: For and Against. New York: Norton.
- McLellan, David. 1975. Karl Marx. New York: Penguin.
- Meisner, Maurice J. 1982. Marxism, Maoism, and Utopianism: Eight Essays. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
- Morrison, Ken. 2006. Marx, Durkheim, Weber: Formations of Modern Social Thought. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
- Pipes, Richard. 2003. Communism: A History. New York: Modern Library.
- Sowell, Thomas. 1985. Marxism: Philosophy and Economics. New York: Morrow.
- class conflict
- conflict theory
- means of production
- mode of production
- relations of production
Hughes, Michael, and Carolyn J. Kroehler. 2008. Sociology: The Core. 8th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Poulantzas, Nicos. 1973. “On Social Classes.” New Left Review 78.
Cite the Definition of Karl Marx
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “Karl Marx (1818–1883).” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved May 29, 2023 (https://sociologydictionary.org/karl-marx/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
Karl Marx (1818–1883). (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/karl-marx/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “Karl Marx (1818–1883).” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed May 29, 2023. https://sociologydictionary.org/karl-marx/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“Karl Marx (1818–1883).” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 29 May. 2023. <https://sociologydictionary.org/karl-marx/>.