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

But it is important to consider this: that this ‘society’ is not a form in itself, but only one of the basic formulae of the bourgeois imagination. This is demonstrated by the fact that there is no dimension in bourgeois politics which is not conceived of as ‘society’.‘Society’ is the total population of the globe presenting itself as the concept of an ideal picture of a unified humanity whose division into states, nations, or races is nothing other {21} than a shortcoming of thinking. This shortcoming, however, is corrected in the course of time through [27] contracts, through education, through civilization, or simply through the progress of means of transportation.‘Society’ is the state whose essence is distorted in turn by the extent to which ‘society’ subordinates it to its own categories. This attack takes place through the concept of civil liberty, whose task is the transformation of all bonds of responsibility into revocable contractual relations.In the closest relationship to ‘society’ stands, finally, the ‘individual’, that peculiar and abstract figure of the human, the most precious discovery of bourgeois sensibility and, at the same time, the inexhaustible object of its fertile imagination. As ‘humanity’ is the cosmos of this conception, so is ‘individual’ man its atom. Practically, however, the ‘individual’ is opposed not to humanity, but to the masses, his exact mirror image in this strangest, most imaginary world. Because the masses and the ‘individual’ are one, and from this unity results the astonishing double image of the most colourful, most confusing anarchy, as well as of the sober agenda of democracy: a spectacle which has been played out for a century.Yet it belongs to the hallmarks of a new epoch that, in it, bourgeois society is condemned to death regardless of whether its concept of freedom is represented in the masses or in the ‘individual’. The first step consists in no longer thinking and feeling in these forms, and the second in no longer acting in them.This means nothing less than an attack on everything which the bourgeois holds dear in life. It is thus a vital issue for the bourgeois to ensure that the worker comes to understand himself simply as the future bearer of ‘society’. Because this belongs to the dogmatic bourgeois stock, thus is the basic form of the bourgeois view saved and the finest possibility of his dominion secured.It is no wonder, then, that ‘society’ is embedded in all [28] regulations prescribed by the bourgeois spirit from its chairs and from its {22} rafters down to the worker. And ‘society’ here is manifest not just in its appearance, but, far more effectively, in its principles. (p.13)


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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