For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

The Worker: Dominion and Form

by Jünger, Ernst (2017)


Written in 1932, just before the fall of the Weimar Republic and on the eve of the Nazi accession to power, Ernst Jünger’s The Worker: Dominion and Form articulates a trenchant critique of bourgeois liberalism and seeks to identify the form characteristic of the modern age. Jünger’s analyses, written in critical dialogue with Marx, are inspired by a profound intuition of the movement of history and an insightful interpretation of Nietzsche’s philosophy. Martin Heidegger considered Jünger “the only genuine follower of Nietzsche,” singularly providing “an interpretation which took shape in the domain of that metaphysics which already determines our epoch, even against our knowledge; this metaphysics is Nietzsche's doctrine of the ‘will to power.’” In The Worker, Jünger examines some of the defining questions of that epoch: the nature of individuality, society, and the state; morality, justice, and law; and the relationships between freedom and power and between technology and nature. This work, appearing in its entirety in English translation for the first time, is an important contribution to debates on work, technology, and politics by one of the most controversial German intellectuals of the twentieth century. Not merely of historical interest, The Worker carries a vital message for contemporary debates about world economy, political stability, and equality in our own age, one marked by unsettling parallels to the 1930s.

Key Passage

It is therefore from a bourgeois point of view that labour is interpreted as an estate, and underlying this interpretation is an unconscious cunning which seeks to harness the new claims in an old frame in order to enable the negotiation to continue. Because where [23] the bourgeois is able to entertain himself, where he is able to bargain, there he is safe. The uprising of labour (Arbeitertums) will, however, not be a second-hand, less colourful infusion prepared according to outdated recipes. The essential difference between the bourgeois and the worker lies not in the temporal succession of dominion, not in the opposition between old and new. The fact that tarnished interests are replaced by younger and more brutal ones is too self-evident for one to dwell on the observation.Instead, what deserves the highest attention is the fact that there is not only a difference in historical time between the bourgeois and the worker, but above all a difference in rank. Namely, that the worker stands in a relation to elemental powers of whose bare presence the bourgeois never had an inkling. To this, as will be explained, is related the fact that the worker, on the basis of his own being, is capable of a freedom completely other than bourgeois freedom, and that his claims, which he holds in readiness, are far more comprehensive, far more significant, far more redoubtable than those of a class. (p.10)


Ernst Jünger, Der Arbeiter, Weimar Republic, Bourgeois Liberalism, Marx, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Technology, Politics, Political Theory, Political Economy, Twentieth Century, German, Social Contract


The Worker: Dominion and Form [1932]

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