For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Ernst Jünger, total mobilisation and the work of war"

by Costea, Bogdan; Amiridis, Kostas (2017)


This review article explores three interconnected texts written in the 1920s and 1930s by the German intellectual Ernst Jünger: Copse 125, Total Mobilisation and The Worker. Dominion and Form. They contain his original analyses of the relationship between war, destruction, organisation and technology. Jünger argued that entering the realm of total organisation, that is, organisation which claims its ground to be scientific, calculated, planned, rationally-administered and technological, destruction is subtly appropriated into, and thought of, as a process of production. Jünger understood war as an increasingly ?necessary? and permanent requirement of the politics of peace and freedom. He anticipated the transformation of destruction into a major field of experimentation with, and through, complex state and private organisational networks (civilian, military and corporate), and into a prime arena of scientific, technological and managerial development. He analysed the emergence of new political discourses and systems whose common ground was to invoke permanent insecurity, risks and dangers and claim the need to manage the peaceful existence of liberal societies.

Key Passage

as battle acquired the character of technologically-driven work, Jünger maps a change in soldiers’ experience of themselves. Fear of the distant and continuous assault of the machines began to combine with an instinctive understanding that a new kind of agency had become available to each of them. If a soldier could comprehend the logic of the machines, it would bestow not simply flexibility and ‘readiness’ for effective reaction, but would also allow a rapid work-like fusion of human skill with technology and its requirements. He wrote, in a shorter sketch based on his diaries, We have to transfer what lies inside us onto the machine. That includes the distance and ice-cold mind that transforms the moving lightning stroke of blood into a conscious and logical performance. What would these iron weapons that were directed against the universe be if our nerves had not been intertwined with them and if our blood didn’t flow around every axle? (Jünger, 1929: 84) This was a sign of a future transformation: soldiers becoming total fighting units, ready to be deployed within an organised system of pure apparata, driven by centralised decision-making based on criteria of pure technological rationality. The new soldier is not a warrior, but a technical operator, a mechanical specialist, capable of understanding both how instruments are made and how they are to be used. (p.480)


Jünger, Mobilisation, Technology, War, Warfare, Military, Organisation Studies, Destruction, Managerial Development


On Jünger

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