For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Technology and modernity: Spengler, Jünger, Heidegger, Cassirer"

by Roberts, David (2012)


In the crisis scenarios of modernity which flourished in the Weimar Republic, technology is typically seen as destiny or fate. Thus Oswald Spengler and Ernst Jünger both construe the coming struggle for world power in terms of the integration of production and technology in the industrial-military complex. Martin Heideggers critique of Jüngers blueprint for total mobilization in Der Arbeiter (1932) springs from his reading of modernity as nihilism. Just as the crisis of Western history is reaching completion in modernity, so equally metaphysics reaches completion in modern technology. Heideggers essay ?The Question Concerning Technology written after the Second World War, is contrasted with Ernst Cassirers essay Form and Technology (1930), directed against Spenglers regression to irrationalism, in terms of two fundamental relationships to the world: Heideggers Greek-oriented ontology of world disclosure and Cassirers modern ontology of construction (the possibilization of the world) with reference to technology and art.

Key Passage

Junger’s cold and penetrating gaze serves his apocalyptic construction of world history: the destruction of the hated bourgeois world and the dawn of the age of the totalitarian Worker State, in which the figure (Gestalt) of the Worker embodies the destiny of man to master the earth. Junger’s new man is the Nietzschean Superman, who is capable of facing and welcoming the terrifying annihilating reality of the world as Will to Power, revealed in the Great War. His ‘heroic realism’ separates the Worker from the ‘bourgeois’ individual who anxiously clings to life and security as his highest values. The invasion of bourgeois space by the ‘elemental’ powers of war has forever shattered the illusions of peacetime and separated masters and slaves: for the one, death becomes the extreme moment of self discovery; for the other, the mass of fearful victims, there awaits what Junger calls thedemocracy of death. The parallel to Heidegger’s distinction in Being and Time between authentic andinauthentic Dasein, between the few and the many (das Man), is evident. In each the deciding criterion is the resolute readiness to look death in the face. (p.22)


Junger, Heidegger, Spengler, Cassirer, Technology, Modernity, Nihilism


On Jünger, Technology, On Heidegger

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