The Marx-Engels Reader
Publication Date: March 1978
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Born into a wealthy middle-class family in Trier in the Prussian Rhineland, Marx studied at the University of Bonn and the University of Berlin, where he became interested in the philosophical ideas of the Young Hegelians. After his studies, he wrote for a radical newspaper in Cologne, and began to work out his theory of dialectical materialism. He moved to Paris in 1843, where he began writing for other radical newspapers and met Friedrich Engels, who would become his lifelong friend and collaborator.
In 1849 he was exiled and moved to London together with his wife and children where he continued writing and formulating his theories about social and economic activity.
Marx's theories about society, economics and politics - collectively known as Marxism - hold that human societies progress through class struggle: a conflict between an ownership class that controls production and a dispossessed labouring class that provides the labour for production. He called capitalism the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie," believing it to be run by the wealthy classes for their own benefit; and 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.
Marx argued that class antagonisms under capitalism between the bourgeoisie and proletariat would eventuate in the working class' conquest of political power in the form of a dictatorship of the proletariat and eventually establish a classless society, socialism or communism, a society governed by a free association of producers. Along with believing in the inevitability of socialism and communism, Marx actively fought for their implementation, arguing that social theorists and underprivileged people alike should carry out organised revolutionary action to topple capitalism and bring about socio-economic change. Marx has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history.
Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) were German-born social philosophers who lived much of their lives in England.
Robert C. Tucker is professor of politics emeritus at Princeton University and past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.