Born on May 5, 1818, few thinkers have been as influential as Karl Marx. Philosopher, theoretician of history, economist, sociologist, journalist, and revolutionary socialist, he was a prolific thinker and writer, widely lauded, criticized, and misunderstood, and all of these especially by those who claim to act in his name.
Too many of the latter have instituted some of the world’s most brutal and deadly regimes, which would have surprised and horrified Marx to no end. After all, his thought was informed and driven by the horrors of overcrowding, filth, pollution, and poverty that the industrial revolution and nascent, unregulated capitalism had wrought in English cities in his own time. While the value of his observations of the plight of the working poor are widely appreciated, as are his explorations of problems with and contradictions within capitalism that earlier thinkers such as Adam Smith had not identified or foreseen, there doesn’t seem to be much hope that his solutions would or could be implemented except by oppressive and tyrannical regimes.
In honor of his birthday, here’s a series of works about Karl Marx, a recent painting by an artist whose work my good friend introduced me to, and a song that I love.
Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) ~ a brief bio at BBC: History
Karl Marx, 1818-1883 ~ by Steven Kreis for The History Guide
Karl Marx ~ by Jonathan Wolff for The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Marx ~ Melvyn Bragg and guests Anthony Grayling, Francis Wheen, and Gareth Stedman Jones discuss Karl Marx for BBC’s In Our Time podcast and radio series
*A version of this piece was previously published at Ordinary Philosophy
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