Every time I speak about Karl Marx in front of a live audience, the atmosphere in the lecture hall feels more charged. Smith, Comte, Tocqueville, interesting authors, okay. But Marx, hey, that is something else. Everybody who is interested in the social sciences has heard of him, whether they are well acquainted with his theories or not. And often people have already an opinion about him. And in many cases, it's very strong opinion. They agree with his vision or they disagree, but whatever is the case, they are outspoken about it. But there is also another possibility. Students sometimes walk up to me and say something like, my mother always talked about this great guy, Karl Marx, and when I was a kid, I was impressed by all those books that he had written standing there on the bookshelf. But actually I never quite understood what that was all about, so I'm so happy that in this class, you will help me, you, teacher, to get an idea of what Marx actually had to say. And maybe that's not just a bad attitude to start with. It can not be denied that Marx is very different from any other theorist that we discuss here. Durkheim or Waver were never quite as influential in social, economic, political or cultural life than Karl Marx. Social democratic parties, socialist and communist parties, in Europe, European countries like France, Germany, Sweden, Poland or the Netherlands have always made it very clear that their political program rested on the firm foundation of the thoughts of Marx. And of course his friend and collaborator, Friedrich Engels. Maybe some social democratic leaders would prefer their potential voters to forget those intellectual origins. But, then again, there are always members of those left-wing political movements, who urge the leadership to remember and to honor their intellectual roots. There's another and a bigger problem. Completely innocent people have been killed on a massive scale by regimes whose leaders said that they were inspired by Marx and Engels. That they were only putting into practice what those thinkers had preached. This has happened in the Soviet Union under Stalin, in Maoist China, in Cambodia where the Khmer Rouge, whose leaders sometimes had studied Marxism at western universities, slaughtered millions of people. Now, of course, we can say that this is not at all what the great humanists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had intended by writing their books and their articles. Their arguments were abused by ruthless dictators and their cruel henchmen. And that may be true, but still, there is this ugly line connecting the interesting things that 19th century Karl Marx had to say with 20th century mass murder. And that is a problem we should not shy away from. One of the important questions here is whether there are elements in Marx's thought that made it less difficult to interpret him as somebody who justified violence. And I'm convinced, for example, that there is something very totalitarian in August Comte's positivism that doesn't leave space for criticism once the positivist's truth has been scientifically guaranteed. But Comte had this good fortune that nobody used or abused his ideas in defence of censorship, or defending the prosecution of critics of the positivist church. But Marx was less than lucky in that regard. Bloody tyrants in the West and in the East appropriated his arguments. You can say they alienated them from his body of work, and put them to use as an apology for their murderous projects. And however undeserved that is for Karl Marx and poor Friedrich Engels, there are lines in their books that lend themselves to being used in such a way. And, here, we should really pay attention to that aspect, because it may teach you something about the unexpected force and the dangerous potential of social fault in general. The uses that have been made of the ideas of Karl Marx should at least liberate us from that idea that social theory is always and will always remain without any consequence. That is such a common cliche. People often say all those deep thinkers Comte, Tocqueville and Durkheim, writing those great books, nobody reads them, nobody cares to read them. What influence did they actually have? And, you know, apart from the fact that this is not true at all, that, for example, Emile Durkheim had an important influence on the French educational system. The best way to show that this is really is an ill-founded cliche is to simply reply by saying, what about Marx? So, to talk in a more or less detached way about what is interesting and still worthwhile in the ideas of Karl Marx, no, that is not a very easy task.