For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Work as total reason for being: Heidegger and Jünger’s Der Arbeiter"

by Hemming, Laurence Paul (2008)


This article examines Heidegger’s reading of Ernst Jünger’s 1932 Der Arbeiter by making appeal not only to Heidegger’s remarks on the work (and its associated text “Die totale Mobilmachung”) scattered in various texts, but by concentrating on Heidegger’s now-available seminar notes and marginal notes to his actual copy of the text. Heidegger held two seminars on Der Arbeiter, one shortly after its publication and one in 1938, which show his close confrontation not only with Jünger’s reading of Nietzsche, but also Heidegger’s own Nietzsche examination. The article shows how Heidegger distinguishes himself from Jünger by, on the one hand, seeing Der Arbeiter as very much a product of its time and, on the other, identifying a prescience in Nietzsche of a Europe and planetary phenomenon (globalisation) yet to come. This is accomplished in the naming of the triad of Bolshevism, fascism (Nazism), and Americanism metaphysically as the singularity of “world democracy”, and as an entirely nihilistic phenomenon. The article therefore relates the confrontation of these two thinkers with the third (Nietzsche) to issues of the demand for justice, democracy, and the will to power in contemporary economic and political developments, as well as to wider themes in Heidegger’s thought of the end (or consummation) of metaphysics, the will to power, and valuation. The event, in which a new form has announced itself, the form of the worker, brings to expression a particular mankind, presents itself in relation to a mastering of the world as the emergence of a new principle, which should be defined as work. (Jünger 1941, p. 85)

Key Passage

If God is dead, then the consequences of this are that total mobilisation becomes not just possible, but required, both to make visible the death of God and God’s analogue, the monarch (and insofar as an analogue has made itself present, a split has opened up), and to become visible as an individual at all. Moreover, the will to power fulfils the will of God by replacing it. “God” as “being in general” is now understood as, and through, work: the working out and working up of the real. The indeterminate “substance” of the subjectivity of the subject must both actualise and attain its stability through its capacity for mobilisation. It is for this reason that the understanding of total mobilisation precedes the figure of the worker as its condition. Total mobilisation is the social and political manifestation of the will to power. Will to power here must be understood as a condition of being, not as what any individual subject wills. Subjects “will” only because every being (subject) only becomes visible through the will to power, and not the other way around. (p.242)


Heidegger, Junger, Der Arbeiter, Mobilisation, Technology, Military, Bolshevism, Nazism, Democracy


On Jünger, On Heidegger

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