Marx’s Political Education

  • Richard N. Hunt


The purpose of this and the following two chapters is not to offer a general biography of Marx and Engels in their early years, which has been done often enough, but to analyze the development of their political ideas, to expose as much as possible the sources of those ideas and the influences on their evolution. Both men went through three distinct phases in their political education. Marx came from a liberal monarchist background, moved left with the Young Hegelians into the democratic-republican camp toward the end of his university years, and became a communist at twenty-five. Engels’ family upbringing was rigidly conservative, and he had already rebelled against it in his teens, embracing a fiery revolutionary variety of the democratic-republican outlook, until at the age of twenty-one he metamorphosed once again into a communist. In the light of the dichotomies posed in the previous chapter, it will be particularly interesting to ask whether Marx or Engels espoused a “liberal” or “totalitarian” version of the democratic ideal during the middle phase, and how conversion to communism affected these previously held democratic convictions. Marx’s political education was intellectually the more complex and requires a lengthier exposition.1


Ethical Foundation Political Idea Free Press Leading Article Liberal Reform 
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  1. 6.
    As quoted in Arnold Künzli, Karl Marx: Eine Psychographie ( Vienna: Europa, 1966 ), pp. 39 - 40.Google Scholar
  2. 18.
    Robert Payne, Marx ( New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968 ), p. 38.Google Scholar
  3. 89.
    See J. L. Talmon, Political Messianism: The Romantic Phase ( New York: Praeger, 1960 ), p. 205;Google Scholar
  4. Robert C. Tucker, Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx (Cambridge: Cambridge, 1961), p. 102;and Künzli, Psychographie, pp. 173-75.Google Scholar

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© University of Pittsburgh Press 1974

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  • Richard N. Hunt

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