Marx considers various social classes in The Manifesto of the Communist Party, among them: the bourgeoisie, the proletariat, the middle class, and the 'dangerous' classes of social scum. Marx was in a fairly high position in his life, but I do not believe he would call himself a member of the bourgeoisie. But I'm not sure he could justify himself being a member of the proletariat. Reading through the Communist Manifesto I didn't see him address this, but I admit I may have missed it. So, which class would Marx consider himself a member of?

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    As is frequently the case with Marxists specifically and progressives in general, he wanted to see himself as a member of what Russians called "intelligencia" class, but in reality aimed at being a member of ruling class (nobody I'm aware hopes to serve as a janitor in a glorious socialist future).
    – user4012
    Mar 3, 2016 at 12:22
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    @user4012 This is a bad misunderstanding of Marxism and the differences between Marxism and its derivative ideologies like Leninism and Maoism, specifically w/respect to the idea of a vanguard party and the intelligentsia.
    – Era
    Mar 3, 2016 at 19:30
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    My understanding is that Marx believed that, during his lifetime, capitalism was going through a struggle to resolve its own internal contradictions. This struggle was something he saw as an ongoing, dynamical process, and part of the dynamic was that there was increasing polarization of society into two classes, the bourgeoisie (rich getting richer) and the proletariat (poor getting poorer). The end of this process would be a transition to socialism. Since the process was not yet complete, there would be no reason to expect the categories to be so clearcut that he could classify himself.
    – user5526
    Mar 4, 2016 at 4:56

3 Answers 3


The bourgeoisie in Marx' class theory was the caste of entrepreneurs which employed people from the proletariat to work for them and increase their capital.

Marx made most of his income as a self-employed writer. So he was neither a proletarian who was exploited by his employer nor an employer who exploited his workers.

However, his writing provided him with enough income to not being required to resort to criminal activity or begging to survive, so he was not a member of the social scum (unless, of course, you consider his writings themselves as criminal activity, as some of his opponents did).

This made him a member of the middle class or "petite bourgeoisie" as Marx called it.

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    Note: apparently Marx considered the "petite bourgeoisie" to be one of the main classes who were enemies of the struggle towards communism, and who would be one of the economic losers when it was enacted. He considered them oppressors who would resort to fascism and terrorism to fight communism. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petite_bourgeoisie#Role_in_fascism
    – Jonathon
    Apr 5, 2017 at 15:44
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    For much of his later career Marx seems to have sponged off his wealthy friend & collaborator Engels en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Engels and his aristocratic wife en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jenny_von_Westphalen#Marriage
    – jamesqf
    Jan 26, 2020 at 2:20
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    @jamesqf And it's a good thing he did! This is an example of the apparent contradictions in a Hegelian "dialectic" - only through the free time afforded to the bourgeois could Marx have been able to decide what he worked on, and to use his labour time to study and think about capitalism, thus eventually producing history's most rigorous and impactful criticism of capitalism. This idea of circumstances being the necessary causative precursor to their own antithesis is something Marx himself wrote a lot about.
    – iono
    Aug 19, 2022 at 17:41

Karl Marx would consider himself a member of the middle class. Marx was fortunate to be born into a wealthy middle-class family in Trier in the Prussian Rhineland. After studying at the universities of Bonn, Berlin and Jena, Marx developed theories about society, economics and politics with the help of his lifelong friend, Friedrich Engels (who was also born to a wealthy family).

Although he had an affluent upbringing, Marx developed philosophical ideas of socialism later in his life, especially after his university education. He first became interested in the ideas of the Young Hegelians, a group of German intellectuals who developed radical left-wing ideas of the Prussian political system. Later, he began to write for several radical newspapers when he met Engels. His radical views against the government caused him to be exiled to London, where he continued writing and formulating theories about social and economic systems, and also campaigned for socialist movements.

It may seem odd that two men born to wealthy families would grow up to write The Manifesto of the Communist Party, but it is not uncommon for people like Marx to stand up for the less fortunate. Marx's thinking can be compared to the "Enlightenment" thinking of the 18th century, in which people of all walks of life developed ideas of a radically different governmental or economic system.

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    Marx’s theories of class were fundamentally related to the relation of a group to the dominant form of social reproduction. Not a cultural stratification. Jan 26, 2020 at 0:06

Marx’s theories of class are centred in a contradiction between on one hand the emergent economically dominant actual social relations of production; and, on the other hand the limited capacity of humans to describe actuality in theoretical models. For example, in capitalism, Marx describes “the value form” (Capital I, ch1) as the dominant social relationship in his surrounding society which is actively obliterating all prior social relationships by the imposition of wage labour and profit. So for his society Marx views capitalism, as a system of relationships, as both creating the two fundamental class positions: capitalist and proletarian; and the two key actual classes: capitalists and proletarians.

Next to this theoretical summary of a dominant relationship from what relationships Marx actually thinks exist; there are other non-dominant class relationships. These include bound rent and tithe subsistence peasants. Small cash rent market tenant croppers. Large employing farmers who use premodern brutality on semi-peasants. Stipendiary priests and scholars. Bondage slaves not in modern production. Rentier aristocrats bound up with non-capitalist productive land. Small owner-maker petits-bourgeois who used to work in feudal cities. There are lots of actual class positions, but capitalism reduces these ways of being to wage labour or profiting off capital.

Marx as an individual has two contradictory relationships with class. Firstly he produces information for as a petits-bourgeois household. Second he was a kept man who Engels paid a stipend to, this stipend derived from Engels profit as a factory owner. Marx was simultaneously petits-bourgeois and bourgeois. Marx benefitted from primitive household production for market sale of information. Marx benefitted from profit from control of capital.

Marx according to his own views was thoroughly bourgeois.

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