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

We live in conditions in which neither work, nor possession, nor fortune are still profitable and profit itself is reduced to the same measure to which turnover increases. The degradation {176} of the living standard of the worker, the ever shorter period in which fortunes remain in the same hand, the questionableness of property, particularly land property, and the variability of means of production bear witness to this. Production lacks stability and thus any predictability in the long term. Every profit is therefore destroyed by the incessantly renewed necessity of a higher acceleration. Excessive competition burdens producers and consumers alike – advertising can be offered as an example as it has developed into a kind of firework, blowing up enormous sums for whose collection everyone must pay their tribute. Furthermore, here belongs the indiscriminate stimulation of needs and comforts, without which man thinks he can no longer live and through which the measure of his dependence and obligations is increased. Moreover, these needs are just as diverse as they are variable – there are fewer and fewer things one acquires for a lifetime. The sense for duration, as it is embodied in owning property, seems to be shrinking - otherwise it would be inexplicable how today one spends on a car, which will last only a few years, amounts for which a vineyard or a country house could be purchased. With the onslaught of goods, generating a feverish competition, the channels through which money is absorbed necessarily increase. This mobilization of money entails a credit system from which not even a penny can be excluded. Conditions result in which one lives literally [189] through payment by instalments, that is, in which economic existence is presented as the continuous repayment of borrowing through work mortgaged in advance. This process is reflected to an enormous extent in the war debts whose complicated financial mechanism conceals a confiscation of potential energy, an inconceivable plunder whose interest is paid through labour – and all this insinuates itself down to the private existence of the individual. Furthermore, what must be mentioned here is the tendency to bring property into forms with ever smaller compartments with an inherently reduced power to resist. In this category {177} belong the transformation of the remainders of the feudal system into private property, the manner in which one replaces individual and social reserves by insurance payments, and – above all – the various attacks directed against the role of gold as symbol of value. To all this, one must add forms of taxation which give property a kind of administrative character. Thus, after the war, real estate ownership was made into a sort of revenue generator for new construction programmes. To these partial attacks on the last corners of economic security correspond general attacks in the form of inflation and crises38 of a catastrophic kind. (p.124)


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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