The following passage is in Ibn Khalduns Muqaddimah:

One of the greatest injustices and one contributing most to the destruction of civilisation is the unjustified imposition of tasks and the use of subjects for forced labour. This is so because labour belongs to the things that constitute capital. Gain and sustenance represent the value realised from labour among civilised people. By their efforts and all their labours they (acquire) capital and (make a) profit. They have no other way to make a profit except (through labour).

Subjects employed in cultural enterprises gain their livelihoods and profit from such activities. Now, if they are obliged to work utside their own field and are used for forced labour unrelated to their (ordinary ways of) making a living, they no longer have any profit and are thus deprived of the price of their labour, which is their capital (asset). They suffer, and a good deal of their livelihood is gone, or even all of it.

This is strikingly similar to the ideas of Marx and his school. Is there any indication that Marx had read or was aware of Ibn Khalduns ideas?

It's worth pointing that the first translation in Germany that I am aware of was a book of extracts by a Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall in 1810 whereas Marx was born in 1818, which leaves it open as a distinct possibility.


Rosenthal (1958) lists the bibliography of previous translation efforts, the only relevant for Marx:

2) A complete French translation, under the title of Prolegomenes historiques d'Ibn Khaldoun, was published by William MacGuckin de Slane on the basis of Quatremere's edition and with comparison of the Paris manuscripts used by Quatremere, the first Bulaq edition, and the Turkish translation (in part). The three volumes appeared in Paris in the years 1862, 1865, and 1868, as Vols. xix to xxi of the Notices et Extraits des manuscrits de la Bibliotheque Imperiale. De Slane did an altogether admirable job of presenting a highly readable and, in the main, accurate translation of the work. The "freedom" of his version has often been unjustly censured, for it was intentional, and a "free" translation is perfectly legitimate for a work with the stylistic character of the Muqaddimah. There are occasional mistakes of translation, some of them caused by the difficulty of the subject matter and the language, others of a sort that might easily have been avoided. Explanatory footnotes are sparse, and de Slane usually did not bother to indicate the sources for his statements. However, the concluding words of R. Dozy's review of de Slane's work still stand: "Rarely has so difficult a book been translated so well."

However Rosenthal’s scholarship is manifestly deficient in his failure to refer to Hammer-Purgstall’s translated extracts of 1810. Given this deficiency, and the presence of extracts of unknown contents, it is not impossible that Marx was exposed to the social relations focused historiography of Khaldun during Marx’s more voracious periods. Marx did read Hammer-Purgstall on other topics ( https://www.marxists.org/cestina/marx-engels/1854/061854a.html#7a ) but I’ve not found evidence of his exposure to Khaldun, nor of the contents of the extracts.

Khaldun is not, however, appearing in Marx’s works at a site: search of Marxists.org. Now Marxists.org isn’t MEGA but it is a good start. Khaldun appears in Korsch (1938) and other interwar marxists in a haigiographic throw away along side for example Vico. The lack of more extensive hagiography means that Marx hadn’t cited him in major published works (the notebooks and MEGA being post WWII remember).

While Marx is certainly a racist prig who avoids citing his antecedents unless he can destroy them utterly, I can’t see how Khaldun would not have been cited in full text searchable texts archived by marxists.org if Marx had been influenced by Khaldun in his production of historical materialism. This does not rule out a throw away text note from the notebooks, but Marx was fixated on Europeans.

So sadly that’s a “highly probable no.” Marx was voracious but his orientalist work was dilettantish at best. It is most probable that convergent evolution is the explanation, rather than influence, is the explanation. The chief evidence

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    $\begingroup$ -1: There was a publication of extracts of the Muqaddimah in 1810 by Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall whereas Marx was born in 1818. That leaves it open as a distinct possibility especially given the kind of subject matter involved. $\endgroup$ – Mozibur Ullah Dec 23 '18 at 6:06
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    $\begingroup$ @MoziburUllah Please refrain from being so condescending toward a contributor who addresses your question and even gives you references. You are always free to disagree with anyone, but downvoting the answer for including an opinion and/or premised conjecture you dislike and telling him "Keep your apology and depression" is bad taste and unwarranted. $\endgroup$ – Iñaki Viggers Dec 23 '18 at 14:23

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