For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

The Heidegger controversy: A critical reader

by Heidegger, Martin; Wolin, Richard (1992)


This anthology is a significant contribution to the debate over the relevance of Martin Heidegger's Nazi ties to the interpretation and evaluation of his philosophical work. Included are a selection of basic documents by Heidegger, essays and letters by Heidegger's colleagues that offer contemporary context and testimony, and interpretive evaluations by Heidegger's heirs and critics in France and Germany.In his new introduction, "Note on a Missing Text," Richard Wolin uses the absence from this edition of an interview with Jacques Derrida as a springboard for examining questions about the nature of authorship and personal responsibility that are at the heart of the book.Richard Wolin is Professor of Modern European Intellectual History and Humanities at Rice University. He is the author of Walter Benjamin, The Politics of Being: The Political Thought of Martin Heidegger, and The Terms of Cultural Criticism: The Frankfurt School, Existentialism and Poststructuralism.

Key Passage

[Complete article written by Heidegger for the Freiburger Studentenzeitung]-The Call to the Labor Service (January 23, 1934) -The new path that is being followed by the education of our German young men [Jungmannschaft] leads through the Labor Service. -Such service provides the basic experience of hardness, of closeness to the soil and to the implements of labor, of the rigorous law that governs the simplest physical-and thus essential-tabor in a group. -Such service provides the basic experience of daily existence in a  camp community, an existence that is strictly ordered according to the require-ments of the tasks that the group has undertaken. -Such service provides the basic experience of having put daily to the test [auf die Probe und in die Entscheidung gestellt], and thus clarified and reinforced, one's sense of social origin [der ständischen Herkunft] and of the responsibility that derives for the individual from the fact that all belong together in an ethnic-cultural [volkhaft] unity. -Such service provides the basic experience of the origin of true comrade-ship. True comradeship only arises under the pressure of a  great com-mon danger or from the ever-growing commitment to a clearly perceived task; it has nothing to do with the effusive exchange of psychological [seelisch] inhibitions by individuals who have agreed to sleep, eat, and sing under one roof. -Such service provides the basic experience of those things which will allow the individual to be able to truly take stock of himself, and it takes the final decision in the choice of a  profession out of the realm of the private bourgeois calculation of prospects according to the principle of "appropriateness to one's social standing." -We must think beyond the immediate effects of Labor Service, which are already apparent, and learn to comprehend the fact that here, with the German young people who are now taking their place in society, a complete transformation of German existence [Dasein] is being made ready. Within the German university, a  new basic attitude towards scholarly and scientific work [wissenschaftliche Arbeit] will slowly de-velop. And as this happens, that notion of the "intellect" ["Geist"] and of "intellectual work" ["geistige Arbeit"] will completely disappear in terms of which the "educated" person has up to now defined his life and which even now his envoys want to salvage for a separate estate [Stand] of "intellectual producers." Only then will we learn that, as work, all work is spiritual [geistig]. Animals and all beings that merely exist cannot work. They lack the basic experience that work requires: the decisive commitment to a  task, the capacity for resoluteness and stead-fastness in an assignment they have accepted. In short, they lack freedom, that is: spirit [Geist]. -So-called "intellectual work" ["geistige Arbeit"] is not spiritual [geistig] because it  relates to "higher spiritual things" ["habere geistige Dinge"]. lt is spiritual [geistig] because, as work, it reaches back more deeply into the afflictions [Not] that are part of a people's historical existence [Das-ein] and because it is more directly-because more knowingly-beset by the hardness and danger of human existence [Dasein]. -There is only one single German "estate" [" Lebensstand'']. That is the estate of labor [Arbeitsstand] which is rooted in and borne by the Volk and which has freely submitted to the historical will of the State. The character of this estate is being pre-formed in the National Socialist Workers' Party movement. -A call to the Labor Service is being sounded. -Those who are lame, comfortable, and effete will "go" into the Labor Service because it will perhaps jeopardize their degree and employment prospects to stay away. Those who are strong and unbroken are proud that extreme demands are being made of them: for that is the moment when they rise up to the hardest tasks, those for  which there is neither pay nor praise, but only the "reward" of sacrifice and service in the area of the innermost necessities of German Being [deutschen Seins]. (p.53)


Heidegger, Germany, National Socialism, Nazi, Twentieth Century, National Socialist Education, Academia, Duty, Work Creation, Service


The Call to the Labor Service [1934], Heidegger Citations

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