Karl Marx has often been interpreted as formulating an economic determinist, Eurocentric and historically linear conception of human development. Where they exist, such interpretations understand ‘development’ as capitalist modernisation. If correct, this critique leaves Marxism ill-equipped to interpret and contribute to transformations of the conditions of labouring classes under neoliberal globalisation. This article argues against such interpretations by discussing how, for Marx, the form and content of class struggles, their relations to the national state, and their articulation through the world system were the key to understanding divergent processes of human development. Marx’s insights are particularly relevant under contemporary globalised capitalism. This article argues, further, that Marx provides us with the basis for formulating a labour-centred approach to human development and development studies.