For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Politics and Ontological Difference in Heidegger"

by de Sá, Alexandre Franco (2014)


This is the first English translation of the seminar Martin Heidegger gave during the Winter of 1934-35, which dealt with Hegel's Philosophy of Right. This remarkable text is the only one in which Heidegger interprets Hegel's masterpiece in the tradition of Continental political philosophy while offering a glimpse into Heidegger's own political thought following his engagement with Nazism. It also confronts the ideas of Carl Schmitt, allowing readers to reconstruct the relation between politics and ontology. The book is enriched by a collection of interpretations of the seminar, written by select European and North American political thinkers and philosophers. Their essays aim to make the seminar accessible to students of political theory and philosophy, as well as to open new directions for debating the relation between the two disciplines. A unique contribution, this volume makes available key lectures by Heidegger that will interest a wide readership of students and scholars.

Key Passage

In Nietzsche’s concept of the “will to power” Jünger finds the key to thinkingabout the elemental force as the basis of the world increasingly mobilized by the“total character of the work.” For Jünger, the metaphysical place of absoluteBeing is occupied not by the human being, individually or collectively conceived,but by the elemental dynamic of the will to power. Th is is why, in line withNietzsche, Jünger represents for Heidegger the completeness and the inversionof Western metaphysics. “In the form of the worker,” Heidegger argues, “humansubjectivity completes itself as unconditional and reaches its planetaryexpansion.” 14The dialogue with Jünger’s metaphysics of the worker allows Heidegger to openthe way to a political criticism that extends beyond the rejection of biologism andethnocentric thinking: it paves the way to thinking politics beyond the structuresof domination and sovereignty. With Jünger, Heidegger rejects the establishment of human being, both in the form of the individual and in the form of the people,as the absolute being and supreme value. However, against Jünger, Heidegger’s aimis not only to displace human beings from the status of absolute being, but also toleave behind a metaphysical structure that is based on the relationship betweenthe absolute sovereign subject and the world mobilized by it.When it came to politics, Heidegger’s appropriation of Jünger’s worker wasthe basis for his rejection of the Nazi proposal to see in the people the ultimateabsolute being. In fact, Nazi ideologues, such as Alfred Rosenberg, identifi ed thepeople as the supreme value, proclaiming that the state was only a politicalinstrument at the service of the people. “The state,” Rosenberg argues, “is not thegoal anymore, but only a means to the preservation of the people.” 15 Nazi jurists,such as Otto Koellreutter, condemned the Hegelian legacy of putting the stateabove society and the people, and of seeing in it the ground for people’s unity. 16Based on Jünger’s thought, Heidegger, in his turn, appropriated Hegel’s conceptionof the state as the basis for the political existence of the people. However, byassuming Hegel’s political legacy, Heidegger did not want to transform the stateinto the absolute being as an alternative to the people. Far from seeking toattribute to the state the status of an absolute subject, Heidegger tried to leavebehind a way of thinking based on sovereign absolute being, whatever it may be.Neither the people nor the state should occupy the place of Being. In his seminaron Hegel, therefore, Heidegger’s focus was on fi nding a way to think the politicaland the state without defi ning them as absolute subjects. In this context,Heidegger found in Carl Schmitt’s concept of the political and the state themuch- needed interlocutor. (p.59)


Heidegger, Hegel, Schmitt, Junger, Twentieth Century, National Socialism, Continental Philosophy, Political Theory, Philosophy Of Right


On Heidegger

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