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Karl Marx (1818–1883) is best known not as a philosopher but as a revolutionary, whose works inspired the foundation of many communist regimes in the twentieth century.It is hard to think of many who have had as much influence in the creation of the modern world.However, pushing matters deeper, in an argument reinvented by innumerable critics of liberalism, Marx argues that not only is political emancipation insufficient to bring about human emancipation, it is in some sense also a barrier.
On completion of his doctorate in 1841 Marx hoped for an academic job, but he had already fallen in with too radical a group of thinkers and there was no real prospect.
Turning to journalism, Marx rapidly became involved in political and social issues, and soon found himself having to consider communist theory.
The most significant of these thinkers was Ludwig Feuerbach, who attempted to transform Hegel’s metaphysics, and, thereby, provided a critique of Hegel’s doctrine of religion and the state.
A large portion of the philosophical content of Marx’s works written in the early 1840s is a record of his struggle to define his own position in reaction to that of Hegel and Feuerbach and those of the other Young Hegelians.
Trained as a philosopher, Marx turned away from philosophy in his mid-twenties, towards economics and politics.
However, in addition to his overtly philosophical early work, his later writings have many points of contact with contemporary philosophical debates, especially in the philosophy of history and the social sciences, and in moral and political philosophy.In responding to Bauer, Marx makes one of the most enduring arguments from his early writings, by means of introducing a distinction between political emancipation — essentially the grant of liberal rights and liberties — and human emancipation.Marx’s reply to Bauer is that political emancipation is perfectly compatible with the continued existence of religion, as the contemporary example of the United States demonstrates.However Marx refused to speculate in detail about the nature of communism, arguing that it would arise through historical processes, and was not the realisation of a pre-determined moral ideal.Karl Marx was born in Trier, in the German Rhineland, in 1818.Therefore liberal rights are rights of separation, designed to protect us from such perceived threats.Freedom on such a view, is freedom from interference.The works so far mentioned amount only to a small fragment of Marx’s opus, which will eventually run to around 100 large volumes when his collected works are completed.However the items selected above form the most important core from the point of view of Marx’s connection with philosophy, although other works, such as the (1852), are often regarded as equally important in assessing Marx’s analysis of concrete political events.This is largely remembered for its Preface, in which Marx sketches out what he calls ‘the guiding principles’ of his thought, on which many interpretations of historical materialism are based.Marx’s main economic work is, of course, (1875) is an important source for Marx’s reflections on the nature and organisation of communist society.