Karl Marx ( 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a philosopher, economist, sociologist, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. Born in Prussia to a middle-class family, he later studied political economy and Hegelian philosophy. As an adult, Marx became stateless and spent much of his life in London, England, where he continued to develop his thought in collaboration with German thinker Friedrich Engels and published various works, the most well-known being the 1848 pamphlet The Communist Manifesto. His work has since influenced subsequent intellectual, economic, and political history.
Marx's theories about society, economics and politics—collectively understood as Marxism—hold that human societies develop through class struggle: a conflict between ruling classes (known as the bourgeoisie) that control the means of production and working classes (known as the proletariat) that work on these means by selling their labour for wages. Through his theories of alienation, value, commodity fetishism, and surplus value, Marx argued that capitalism facilitated social relations and ideology through commodification, inequality, and the exploitation of labour. Employing a critical approach known as historical materialism, Marx propounded the theory of base and superstructure, asserting that the cultural and political conditions of society, as well as its notions of human nature, are largely determined by obscured economic foundations. These economic critiques would result in influential works such as Capital, Volume I (1867).
According to Marx, states are run in the interests of the ruling class but are nonetheless represented as being in favor of the common interest of all. He predicted that, like previous socioeconomic systems, capitalism produced internal tensions which would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by a new system: socialism. For Marx, class antagonisms under capitalism, owing in part to its instability and crisis-prone nature, would eventuate the working class' development of class consciousness, leading to their conquest of political power and eventually the establishment of a classless, communist society governed by a free association of producers. Marx actively fought for its implementation, arguing that the working class should carry out organised revolutionary action to topple capitalism and bring about socio-economic emancipation.
Marx has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history, and his work has been both lauded and criticised. His work in economics laid the basis for much of the current understanding of labour and its relation to capital, and subsequent economic thought. Many intellectuals, labour unions, artists and political parties worldwide have been influenced by Marx's work, with many modifying or adapting his ideas. Marx is typically cited as one of the principal architects of modern sociology and social science.
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