Becomes a Young Hegelian
After uneventful years at the Trier Gymnasium, the young Marx, following
his father's advice, registered at the age of seventeen at the faculty
of law in the University of Bonn. In 1836 he left Bonn to transfer
to the University of Berlin. Although this transfer seems to have
been motivated by nothing more than the desire of a provincial to
move to the more exciting and lively atmosphere of the capital,
it was to prove the decisive turning point in the young man's career.
Hegel was already
dead when Marx entered the University of Berlin, but his spirit
still dominated it fully. And Marx, after but a short period of
resistance, surrendered to that spirit.
at the faculty of law, Savigny in jurisprudence and Gans in criminal
law, exerted some influence over the young Marx. Savigny, the founder
of the Historical School of Jurisprudence, impressed him with his
historical erudition and his power of argumentation. Gans taught
him methods of theoretical criticism in the light of philosophy
of history. But it was not these older Hegelians or near-Hegelians
who converted the young man to his new vision; it was a group of
near-contemporaries, the Young Hegelians. These young philosophers
had formed a little band of heretics who, though in many respects
beholden to the master, had moved away from his teachings. Through
them Marx was initiated into the Hegelian world system at the same
time as he became a member of a group of iconoclasts who irreverently
began to raise awkward and critical questions about major parts
of the great man's synthesis.
Doktorklub, of which Marx now became a member, was comprised of
young marginal academics--a radical, somewhat antireligious, and
more than slightly bohemian lot. Outstanding among them were the
brothers Bruno and Edgar Bauer, both radical and freethinking Hegelians
of the Left, and Max Stirner, the later proponent of ultra-individualistic
anarchism. Under the influence of these men Marx abandoned law and
resolved to devote himself to philosophy. He also became a "man-about-town,"
frequenting the advanced salons of the capital, as well as the beer
cellars, where the Young Hegelians debated for hours on end the
fine points of Hegelian doctrine.
In these student
years Marx saw himself as a future professor of philosophy. In fact,
Bruno Bauer, who had recently been appointed to the University of
Bonn, promised that he would find him a position there. But soon
after this, Bauer himself was dismissed for his antireligious, liberal
views, and Marx abandoned forever his hope for an academic position.
His student days came to an end with the submission to the University
of Jena in 1841 of his thesis, On the Differences between the Natural
Philosophy of Democritus and Epicurus. The dissertation was a fairly
traditional exercise, except for a flaming antireligious preface
which, upon the advice of his friends, was not submitted to the
academic authorities. Marx faced an uncertain future: he was now
twenty-three years of age, an amateur philosopher who had made a
marked impression in advanced salons and bohemian gatherings, but
had otherwise no prospects for a career.
It is no wonder
that when an early admirer, the socialist firebrand Moses Hess,
asked him to become a regular writer for the new liberal-radical
and bourgeois paper Rheinische Zeitung in Cologne, he grasped the
opportunity. He became its editor-in-chief ten months later after
writing a number of outstanding contributions. Back in his native
Rhineland as an editor of a leading radical publication, Marx for
the first time became involved in the immediate practical battles
of the day. He wrote a series of articles on social conditions,
among them, the misery of the Moselle vine-growing peasantry and
the harsh treatment of the poor received for the theft of timber
in forests to which they thought they had a communal right. These
articles attracted considerable attention, and Marx began to be
regarded as a leading radical publicist. But his editorship was
short-lived. He had to battle with the censor continuously and to
use all his ingenuity to get his thinly veiled democratic and republican
propaganda past their scrutiny. When he acidly portrayed the Russian
government as the chief bulwark of reaction in Europe, his own government's
tolerance gave out. The Russian Emperor Nicholas I, who happened
to have read one of Marx's attacks, complained to the Prussian ambassador,
and consequently the Rheinische Zeitung was suppressed. The whole
adventure had lasted only half a year and Marx was again without
in April 1843, he married his childhood sweetheart, Jenny von Westphalen,
to the dismay of most of her family who grumbled about the misalliance
with a social inferior, indeed, one who had no standing whatever.
marriage, the young couple stayed in Bad Kreuznach for several months.
During those idyllic months of honeymoon and young love, Marx filled
five large exercise books with extracts from nearly a hundred volumes
of political and social history and theory, including Montesquieu's
Spirit of the Laws and Rousseau's Social Contract. In November 1843,
despairing of any hope to attain a position in the increasingly
reactionary atmosphere of Germany, Marx and his wife left for Paris.