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Modern Theories of Politics


Evangelia Sembou

Everything you ever wanted to know about modern political theory, but never dared to ask …
This book offers a concise introduction to the main ideas and arguments of the major political thinkers of modernity. It considers the following key thinkers: Hobbes, Locke, Bentham, J. S. Mill, Rousseau, Burke, Hegel and Marx.
Perhaps the best way to understand the ideas of a thinker is to read from their work. This book devotes each chapter to the main writings of a single thinker, providing excerpts from their work and explaining their views in detail. Readers are not expected to have any previous knowledge of the writings of these eight political philosophers, but by the end they should have a solid grasp of their central ideas. This book serves as an essential guide to some of the most important writings on political philosophy of modern times.


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Chapter 8 Karl Marx


Karl Marx was born into a middle-class family in Trier, a very old city, in 1818. At the beginning of the nineteenth century Trier was the commer- cial centre of the Moselle district, a district known for its production of wine. His father was a lawyer and exemplified the ‘typical rationalist of the Enlightenment’.1 It has been suggested that there are two reasons why Marx came to adopt a critical attitude towards the society in which he was born and brought up. Firstly, he was of Jewish origin; his father had been baptized into Protestantism for fear of losing his job, while his mother was very pious. Secondly, the Rhineland, being the most advanced German region industrially and economically was opposed to the predominance of semi-feudal Prussia; simultaneously, it was strongly inf luenced by the ideals of the French Revolution, as it had been annexed by Napoleon. So the Rhineland was the most progressive German region both in terms of economic organization and ideas.2 At the age of seventeen Marx left home in order to study law at the University of Bonn. However, when his father realized that Karl was not taking his studies seriously, he sent him to the more prestigious and rigor- ous in its academic standards University of Berlin a year later. In Bonn the young Marx had become acquainted with romanticism; but his interest in romantic literature had been aroused earlier by the Baron von Westphalen, the father of his fiancée. The Baron had also...

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