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

the type of the worker is counterposed to the type of the feudal lord, the king, the bourgeois: the worker is that one best able to take command of the means of total mobilisation and, at the same time, the worker is that one produced by the means of total mobilisation. The worker is the “product” of technology and of technique, and work is the making manifest of the will to power. Jünger says that “means and the powers of life become possible”, which means “become the same” (Jünger 1941, p. 58).26 Put this way, the worker does not work, rather work makes of (wirkt! — “makes real!”) the worker the work that he is. Nietzsche speaks of how “the subject alone is demonstrable: hypothesis, that there is only the subject — that ‘object’ is only a manner of subject working upon subject — a mode of the subject” (Nietzsche 1996, §569, p. 388) (p.243)


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


On Jünger, On Heidegger

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