Karl Marx was an economist, revolutionary and a sociologist, amongst other occupations. Moving around Germany, France and finally England, he developed his theories and ideas that would lead him to attempt a revolution to overthrow the capitalist system. Despite being close to starting one such revolution, it quickly dissipated when it lost support. He wrote several books on his theories and philosophies in his lifetime.

Research Topics

Karl Marx was interested in social conflict throughout history, and how it spurred change. He noted that not every conflict was quite the same, despite having a similar “formula” of two clashing social classes. Another topic of interest was how the infrastructure affects how the structure and superstructure of a society ends up. When the infrastructure changes, the other two also change to reflect the new system.

Major Theories

Historical materialism: Changing “modes of production” (advances in technology and tools, and the relationship between the exploiter and exploited) results in the rest of society also changing to fit this new mode.

Alienation: The feeling of being an outcast of society as a result of the capitalist system’s method of mass production.

Class and class conflict: The upper class use the lower class to produce the needs of the society. Once the lower class realize that they are being exploited, they will fight back against the upper class.

Importance to the Social Sciences

Several schools of thought have been modelled after the theories he developed. Although some of them have been modified or have had extra ideas added on, the basic concepts still remain.

Did you know?

  • Marx was born into a middle-class family, yet slipped into poverty when his father, his main source of income, died
  • Much of his movement around Europe was because he was forced out of countries that didn’t approve of his government criticism or attempts to start communist revolutions

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