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 must be left to a special, subsequent investigation to uncover the extent to which bourgeois thinking succeeded in falsifying the image of ‘society’ by feigning its self-negation in the first exertions of the worker. One would discover in this thinking the worker’s freedom as a mere repetition of the pattern of bourgeois freedom, in which fate is, from now on, completely openly interpreted as a revocable contractual relation, and the greatest triumph of life consists in an amendment of the current contract. One would recognize in this thinking the worker as direct successor of the rational-virtuous ‘individual’, and as the object of a second sentimentality distinguishable from the first by nothing other than a greater impoverishment5. One would discover, furthermore, in exact correspondence, the workforce as the imprint of the ideal picture of a humanity whose mere utopia already includes the negation of the state and its foundations. This, and nothing but this, is concealed in the pretence lying behind words like “international,” “social,” and “democratic” – or rather, which was concealed, since for anyone skilled enough to guess nothing is left except for the astonishment that anyone believed that the bourgeois world could be shaken by those very claims in which it asserted itself most clearly. (p.14)


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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