Karl Heinrich Marx was born into a middle-class home in Trier on the river Moselle in Germany on May 5, 1818. Marx was a philosopher, social scientist, historian and revolutionary. Without a doubt, he is the most influential socialist thinker to emerge in the 19th century. Though many scholars consider Karl Marx the founder of economic history and sociology, many of his social, economic, and political ideas were not widely accepted until after his death. .
Karl Marx was a revolutionary before anything else. He felt his mission in life was to bring about the overthrow of capitalist society and of the state institutions it had created, to end the "exploitation of the many by the few" (Marx, Engels 14) To do that, he felt it was important to first make the proletariat (the modern working class) conscious of his own position and needs and of the conditions of his emancipation. .
Philosophers who came before Karl Marx saw the world and its people in the context of social relationships. Marx saw a world where material relations are the basis of all human relationships (Smelser 4). Marx had a completely different view of the world from his contemporaries. He also saw several things wrong with the world the way it was. Marx saw suppression of the worker by not only capitalists but by religion as well. He saw religion as a tool to keep the proletariat from realizing the state of his own exploitation. If the proletariat did not see the contradiction of his whole life and the extent of his exploitation, he would not know anything better existed and subsequently would not long for anything better. Although he knew the Bible well, Marx saw religion as something the rich used to hide contradictions in society. Marx is quoted as saying that religion is the "opium of the people- (Smelser xvii).
Marx was not without contradiction himself. He came from a wealthy family, but lived most of his adult life in poverty.