The Introduction offers an overview of the life and work of Karl Marx, emphasizing the importance of the historical social context into which he was born. Both Marx’s personal life and the whole of European society were profoundly marked by the quarter century of ferment in politics and ideas, with warfare across Europe and beyond, sparked by the French Revolution of 1789. He was motivated from his youth to come to terms with the potential for epochal revolutionary social transformation, on the one hand, yet also the inadequacies and failures of the Revolution’s actual politics, on the other. Beginning with his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Marx found a key to understanding humanity’s history of economic and social alienation, and the alternative possibility of society based on freedom, equality, and democracy, through the critique of political economy. Marx thereafter pursued a historical materialist understanding of human social development, culminating in the revolutionary self-emancipation of the working class. Far beyond the limited, if real, achievements of merely political freedom, he saw the capacity for class struggle to create a form of communist society entirely devoid of exploitation and oppression, establishing a new and enduring basis for socially just civilization.