These Karl Marx quotes will give you a simple summary and provide insight into who he was as a person and what inspired his beliefs.
Though he lived more than 100 years ago, the theories and ideas of Karl Marx still have an influence on society today. Despite the fact that some of his principles may be controversial, there’s no denying that this German philosopher had lessons that could be valuable to even those who didn’t agree with him.
Considered the founder of Marxism — also sometimes referred to as communism or socialism — Karl Marx wrote the famous Communist Manifesto in 1848, a book that’s still one of the most important pieces of literature of its time. Not just a political philosopher, Karl Marx was an educated man who was also considered an economist, historian, author, and social theorist.
These Karl Marx quotes are representative of that, and whether you’re interested in a history lesson or just some food for thought, here’s a good place to start.
For more insights from past philosophers, don’t forget to also check out our list of Greek philosopher quotes.
Karl Marx Quotes on Politics
1. “The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.” ― Karl Marx
2. “The bureaucracy is a circle from which no one can escape. Its hierarchy is a hierarchy of knowledge.” ― Karl Marx
3. “Democracy is the road to socialism.” ― Karl Marx
4. “A nation cannot become free and at the same time continue to oppress other nations. The liberation of Germany cannot therefore take place without the liberation of Poland from German oppression.” ― Karl Marx
5. “The country that is more developed industrially only shows, to the less developed, the image of its own future.” ― Karl Marx
6. “Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another.” ― Karl Marx
Karl Marx Quotes on History
7. “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” ― Karl Marx
8. “The history of all previous societies has been the history of class struggles.” ― Karl Marx
9. “Revolutions are the locomotives of history.” ― Karl Marx
10. “Man makes his own history, but he does not make it out of the whole cloth; he does not make it out of conditions chosen by himself, but out of such as he finds close at hand.” ― Karl Marx
11. “History calls those men the greatest who have ennobled themselves by working for the common good; experience acclaims as happiest the man who has made the greatest number of people happy.” ― Karl Marx
12. “History does nothing, it ‘possesses no immense wealth’, it ‘wages no battles’. It is man, real, living man who does all that, who possesses and fights; ‘history’ is not, as it were, a person apart, using man as a means to achieve its own aims; history is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims.” ― Karl Marx
13. “History is the judge — its executioner, the proletarian.” ― Karl Marx
14. “The history of all previous societies has been the history of class struggles.” ― Karl Marx
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Karl Marx Quotes on Society
15. “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” ― Karl Marx
16. “Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex.” ― Karl Marx
17. “Surround yourself with people who make you happy. People who make you laugh, who help you when you’re in need. People who genuinely care. They are the ones worth keeping in your life. Everyone else is just passing through.” ― Karl Marx
18. “Reason has always existed, but not always in a reasonable form.” ― Karl Marx
19. “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries unite!” ― Karl Marx
20. “Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand.” ― Karl Marx
21. “The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.” ― Karl Marx
22. “The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.” ― Karl Marx
23. “The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.” ― Karl Marx
24. “To be radical is to go to the root of the matter. For man, however, the root is man himself.” ― Karl Marx
25. “Religion is the opium of the masses.” ― Karl Marx
26. “The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill society with the industrial capitalist.” ― Karl Marx
Karl Marx Quotes on Critical Thinking
27. “I am nothing but I must be everything.” ― Karl Marx
28. “To be radical is to grasp things by the root.” ― Karl Marx
29. “Favourite motto … De omnibus dubitandum [Everything must be doubted].” ― Karl Marx
If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to check out our collection of Friedrich Nietzsche quotes on life and love.
30. “Necessity is blind until it becomes conscious. Freedom is the consciousness of necessity.” ― Karl Marx
31. “I am a machine condemned to devour books.” ― Karl Marx
32. “The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question.” ― Karl Marx
33. “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” ― Karl Marx
34. “Only your small-minded German philistine who measures world history by the ell and by what he happens to think are ‘interesting news items’, could regard 20 years as more than a day where major developments of this kind are concerned, though these may be again succeeded by days into which 20 years are compressed.” ― Karl Marx
35. “The demand to give up the illusions about its condition is the demand to give up a condition that needs illusions” ― Karl Marx
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Karl Marx Quotes on Capitalism
36. “The rich will do anything for the poor but get off their backs.” ― Karl Marx
37. “The last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope.” ― Karl Marx
38. “You must be aware that the reward for labour, and quantity of labour, are quite disparate things.” ― Karl Marx
39. “The increase in value of the world of things is directly proportional to the decrease in value of the human world.” ― Karl Marx
40. “Capitalism: Teach a man to fish, but the fish he catches aren’t his. They belong to the person paying him to fish, and if he’s lucky, he might get paid enough to buy a few fish for himself.” ― Karl Marx
41. “The less you eat, drink, buy books, go to the theatre or to balls, or to the pub, and the less you think, love, theorize, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you will be able to save and the greater will become your treasure which neither moth nor rust will corrupt—your capital. The less you are, the less you express your life, the more you have, the greater is your alienated life and the greater is the saving of your alienated being.” ― Karl Marx
42. “Accumulate, accumulate! This is Moses and the Prophets!” ― Karl Marx
43. “Capital is dead labour, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.” ― Karl Marx
44. “Political Economy regards the proletarian … like a horse, he must receive enough to enable him to work. It does not consider him, during the time when he is not working, as a human being. It leaves this to criminal law, doctors, religion, statistical tables, politics, and the beadle.” ― Karl Marx
45. “Machines were, it may be said, the weapon employed by the capitalist to quell the revolt of specialized labor.” ― Karl Marx
46. “Moments are the elements of profit” ― Karl Marx
Karl Marx Quotes on Communism
47. “The theory of Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” ― Karl Marx
48. “Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution.” ― Karl Marx
49. “Landlords like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed.” ― Karl Marx
50. “Nothing can have value without being an object of utility.” ― Karl Marx
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What did you learn from these Karl Marx quotes?
Whether or not you consider yourself a communist, socialist, Marxist — or, even a capitalist — Karl Marx is an important historical figure that’s worth studying. Today, more than 200 years after his birth, we still explore concepts that stem from Karl Marx’s theories. But, if you don’t have time for a thorough history lesson, these Karl Marx quotes can give you a simple summary and provide insight into who he was as a person and what inspired his beliefs.
It’s important to recognize that there are countries today that were founded on Karl Marx’s principles and ideologies, and those countries continue to follow Marxist theories to date. Even if you are not in agreement with those theories or those countries’ policies, it’s still worth learning how a man who lived long ago still has a strong influence over how powerful countries and societies run themselves today.
What’s your biggest takeaway from these powerful Karl Marx quotes? Do you have any other thought-provoking quotes to add? Let us know in the comment section below.
January 24, 2020 7:10 AM EST