Karl Marx, A Summary of his Life

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Karl Marx

Karl Marx was born into a progressive Jewish family in Prussian Trier (now in Germany). His father Herschel, descending from a long line of rabbis, was a lawyer and his brother Samuel was--like many of his ancestors--chief rabbi of Trier. The family name was originally "Marx Levi", which derives from the old Jewish surname Mardochai. In 1817 Heinrich Marx converted to the Prussian state religion of Lutheranism to keep his position as a lawyer, which he had gained under the Napoleonic regime. The Marx family was very liberal and the Marx household hosted many visiting intellectuals and artists during Karl's early life.


Marx received good marks in gymnasium, the Prussian secondary education school. His senior thesis, which anticipated his later development of a social analysis of religion, was a treatise entitled "Religion: The Glue That Binds Society Together", for which he won a prize.

In 1833 Marx enrolled in the University of Bonn to study law, at his father's behest.

He joined the Trier Tavern Club and at one point served as its president; his grades suffered as he spent most of his time singing songs in beer halls. The next year, his father made him transfer to the far more serious and academically oriented Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin (now known as the Humboldt University).

Marx and Young Hegelians

In Berlin, Marx's interests turned to philosophy, much to his father's dismay, and he joined the circle of students and young professors known as the "Young Hegelians", led by Bruno Bauer. Some members of this circle drew an analogy between post-Aristotelian philosophy and post-Hegelian philosophy. Another Young Hegelian, Max Stirner, applied Hegelian criticism and argued that stopping anywhere short of nihilistic egoism was mysticism. His views were not accepted by most of his colleagues, and Karl Marx responded in...