Karl Marx was a socialist and a revolutionary thinker of the 19th century. He was influenced by the works of Lewis Henry Morgan a lawyer who turned his attention to ethnographic study of native people. The notes prepared by Marx were used by Engels to bring out the book – The origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.
Marxist anthropology provides a typical 19th century model of social evolution in which contemporary ethnographic evidence could be fitted into appropriate positions. The positions were recognized in the movement from the primitive through the ancient and the feudal to the capitalist and finally the communist stage. Economic base received primary focus in Marxist anthropology and religion, law or sociology.
Marxist anthropology received importance as a subject of study in the Soviet Union and China. Its impact on North America and Europe was low though some individual anthropologists in USA and Britain had certain political and intellectual affiliations with Marxism.
Engels was of the view that mankind passed through the stages of primitive communism, slave society, feudalism, capitalism and communism.