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 Speech, Given by Heidegger at Freiburg University to 6oo beneficiaries of the National Socialist "labor service" (Arbeitsdienst) program . Published in Der Alemann: Kampfblatt der Nationalsocialisten Oberbadms, February 1, 1934]-National Socialist Education (January 22, 1934):-German Volksgenossen! German Workers! -As Rector of the University, I cordially welcome you to our institution. This welcome will at the same time be the beginning of our work together. Let us start by understanding clearly the significance of the fact that you, for whom the City of Freiburg has created jobs by emergency decree, are coming together with us in the largest lecture hall of the University. -What does this fact mean? Because of novel and comprehensive measures on the pan of the City of Freiburg you have been given work and bread has been put on your tables. You thereby enjoy a  privileged position among the rest of the City's unemployed. But this preferential treatment means at the same time an obligation. And your duty is to understand the creation of jobs, and to accept the work for  which you are paid, in the way that the Führer of our new State demands. For the creation of jobs means not only the alleviation of external need, not only the elimination of inner discouragement or, indeed, despair; the creation of jobs means not only the warding off of that which burdens. The creation of jobs is at the same time, and in its essence, an act of building up and construction [Aufbau und Bau] in the new future of our Volk. -The creation of work must, first of all, make the unemployed and jobless Volksgenosse again capable of existing [daseinsfähig] in the State and for the State and thereby capable of existing for the Volk as a  whole. The Volksgenosse who has found work should learn thereby that he has not been cast aside and abandoned, that he has an ordered place in the Volk, and that every service and every accomplishment possesses its own value that is fungible by other services and accomplishments. Having experienced this, he should win back proper dignity and self-confidence in his own eyes and acquire proper self-assurance and resoluteness in the eyes of his Volksgenossen. -The goal is: to become strong for a fully valid existence as a Volksgenosse in the German Volksgemeinschaft.For this, however, it is necessary: -to know where one's place in the Volk is, to know how the Volk is organized and how it renews itself in this organization, to know what is happening with the German Volk in the National Socialist State, to know in what a bitter struggle this new reality was won and created, to know what the future recovery of the body of the Volk [Volkskörper] means and what it demands of each individual, to know to what point urbanization has brought the Germans, how they would be returned to the soil and the country through resettlement, to know what is entailed in the fact that 18 million Germans belong to the Volk but, because they are living outside the borders of the Reich, do not yet belong to the Reich. -Everyone of our Volk who is employed must know for what reason and to what purpose he is where he is. lt is only through this living and ever-present knowledge that his life will be rooted in the Volk as a  whole, and in its destiny. Providing this knowledge is  thus a necessary part of the creation of work; and it is your right, but therefore also your obligation, to demand this knowledge and to endeavor to acquire it. -And now, your younger comrades from the university stand ready to help you acquire this knowledge. They are resolved to help that knowledge to become alive in you, to help it  develop and grow strong and never again to slumber. They stand ready, not as "intellektuals" ["Studierten"] from the class of your "betters," but as Volksgenossen' who have recognized their duty. -They stand ready, not as the "educated" vis-a-vis a class-indeed, a "lower class" -of uneducated individuals, but as comrades. They are prepared to listen to your questions, your problems, your difficulties, and your doubts, to think through them with you, and, in shared effort, to bring them to a clear and decisive resolution. What, therefore, is the significance of the fact that you are assembled here in the auditorium of the University -with us? -This fact is a  sign that a  new, common will exists, the will to build a living bridge between the worker of the "hand" and the worker of the "head." Today, the will to bridge this gap is no longer a  project that is doomed to failure. And why not? Because the whole of our German reality has been changed by the National Socialist State, with the result that our whole past way of understanding and thinking must also be-come different. What we thought up to now when we used the words "knowledge" and "Wissenschaft" has taken on another significance.-What we meant up to now with the words "worker" and "work" has acquired another meaning. -"Wissenschaft" is not the possession of a  privileged class of citizens, to be used as a  weapon in the exploitation of the working people. Rather, Wissenschaft is merely the more rigorous and hence more responsible form of that knowledge which the entire German Volk must seek and demand for its own historical existence as a state [sein eigenes geschicht-lich-staatliches Dasein] if it still wants to secure its continued existence and greatness and to preserve them in the future. In its essence, the knowledge of true Wissenschaft does not differ at all from the knowl-edge of the farmer, woodcutter, the miner, the artisan. For knowledge means: to know one's way around in the world into which we are placed, as a community and as individuals. -Knowledge means: in our decisions and actions to be up to the task that is assigned us, whether this task be to till the soil or to fell a  tree or to dig a ditch or to inquire into the laws of Nature or to illumine the fate-like force of History. -Knowledge means: to be master of the situation into which we are placed. -What is decisive is not so much how varied our knowledge is and what quantity of things we know, but whether our knowledge has grown naturally out of and is directed towards our circle of existence [ein urspriinglich gewachsenes und auf unseren Daseinskreis aussgerichtetes] and whether, through our deeds and in our behavior, we take responsibility for what we know. We no longer distinguish between the "edu· cated" and the "uneducated." And not because these are both the same, but because we no longer tie our estimation of a  person to this distinction. We do, on the other hand, differentiate between genuine knowledge and pseudo-knowledge. Genuine knowledge is something that both the farmer and the manual laborer have, each in his own way and in his own field of work, just as the scholar has it  in his field. And, on the other hand, for all his learning, the scholar can in fact simply be wasting his time in the idle pursuit of pseudo-knowledge.- If you are to become ones who know here, then that does not mean that you will be served up scraps of some "general education," as a charitable afterthought. Rather, that knowledge shall be awakened in you by means of which you-each in his respective class and work group-can be clear and resolute Germans. -Knowledge and the possession of knowledge, as National Socialism understands these words, does not divide into classes, but binds and unites Volksgenossen and social and occupational groups [Stände] in the one great will of the State. -Like these words "knowledge" and "Wissenschaft," the words "worker'' and "work," too, have a  transformed meaning and a  new sound. The "worker" is not, as Marxism claimed, a mere object of exploitation. The workers [Arbeiterstand] are not the class of the disinherited who are rallying for the general class struggle. But labor is also not simply the production of goods for others. Nor is labor simply the occasion and the means to earn a living. Rather: -For us, "work" is  the title of every well-ordered action that is borne by the responsibility of the individual, the group, and the State and which is thus of service to the Volk. -Work only exists where man's determination and perseverance are freely engaged in the assertion of will and the accomplishment of a  task; but there it exists everywhere. Therefore, all work is, as work, something spiritual [Geistiges], for it is founded in the free exercise of expert knowledge and in the competent understanding of one's task; that is: it is founded in authentic knowledge [eigentliches Wissen]. The accom-plishment of a  miner is basically no less spiritual [geistig] than the activity of a scholar. -Worker and work, as National Socialism understands these words, does not divide into classes, but binds and unites Volksgenossen and the social and occupational groups into the one great will of the State. -The "workers" and "academics" [die "wissenschaftlich Wissenden"] are not opposites. Every worker is, in his own way, one who knows; and only as one who knows is he able to work at all. The privilege of work is denied the animal. And conversely: every person who acts knowingly and who makes decisions in and on the basis of Wissenscha& [wissen-schaftlich Entscheidender] is a worker. -For this reason, neither for you nor for us can the will to build a  living bridge remain any longer an empty, hopeless wish. This will, to consum-mate the creation of jobs by providing the right kind of knowledge, this will must be our innermost certainty and never-faltering faith. For in what this will wills, we are only following the towering will of our Fiihrer. To be his loyal followers means: to will that the German people shall again find, as a people of labor, its organic unity, its simple dignity, and its true strength; and that, as a state of labor, it shall secure for itself permanence and greatness. -To the man of this unprecedented will, to our Fuhrer Adolf Hitler-a threefold "Sieg Heil!" [Translated by William S. Lewis] (p.55)


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


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

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