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Marx, Karl (1818–83)

Subject Religion

People Marx, Karl

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631198963.2005.x


German social and economic theorist, founder of communism. He studied law at Bonn and Berlin but his developing interests were in the area of the philosophy of history, where he was influenced by L. Feuerbach's materialism and by Hegelianism—he was a member of a group of ‘young Hegelians’ which included religious thinkers such as D.F. Strauss. Working for Die rheinische Zeitung but under pressure from the Prussian authorities who opposed his revolutionary activities, he moved to Paris (1843); then to Brussels (1845 until March 1848); and after a short period participating in revolution in his homeland, he settled in London in 1849, where he devoted his life to study and writing. Of Jewish parentage, Marx was baptized in 1824, but became an opponent of religion. He acknowledged religion as a consolation for the oppressed, but believed that such consolation was illusory: religion was ‘the opium of the people’. He argued that if the economic conditions that produced poverty were overturned, religion would become obsolete. Oppression of the working class was the hallmark of a social and economic system designated ‘capitalism’, and the established church was guilty of helping to uphold the capitalist status quo. His major work, Capital , of 1867, analysed this system, under which those who control the ‘means of production’ exploit a powerless labour force, which, in his Communist ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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