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 the worker is typified in the forms of fascism (Nazism), communism (Bolshevism), and Americanism, these are for Heidegger only the means by which the underlying metaphysics of valuation eclipses what Jünger refers to as the latest political forms (after the feudal, monarchial, and others). “World democracy” is not, therefore, either for Heidegger or for Nietzsche, a final form, understood as presence, but the manner of an overcoming, an emerging presencing, something on its way and coming from before us. World democracy, as the triumph of something European (of which the American is only a later form) on a planetary scale is attained through the metaphysics of valuation, which itself indicates the arising triumph of the subjectivity of the subject. This emerging is essentially “rank-ordering”: it does not cancel difference, it produces it in order to arrive at all. The force of necessity cannot be overestimated: the subject, in order to arrive and be visible, must and does arrive visibly (already) ascribing values (p.248)


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


On Jünger, On Heidegger

Links to Reference



How to contribute.