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

how important it is to distinguish between the worker as a nascent power on which the fate of the {25} country is based, and the garbs in which the bourgeois disguised this power in order that it would serve him as a puppet in his artificial game. This is a distinction between rise and fall. And this is our belief: that the rise of the worker is equivalent to a new ascent for Germany.To the extent that the worker brought his portion of bourgeois legacy to rule, he simultaneously divested himself visibly of it like a doll filled with dry straw that had been threshed out over a century ago. It can no longer escape his sight that the new ‘society’ is a second-hand and cheaper imitation of the old.Forever will such copies be made one after the other, forever will the running of the machine be fed by the invention of new contradictions, if the worker does not grasp that he does not stand in a relation of contradiction to society, but in one of utter alterity.Only then will he reveal himself as the true mortal enemy of society, when he will refuse to think, to feel, and to be in its forms. This, however, happens when he realises that he has so far been all too modest in his claims and that the bourgeois taught him to desire only what appears desirable to the bourgeois.But life conceals more, and other, than what the bourgeois understands by ‘goods’, and the highest claim which the worker can make consists not in being the bearer of a new society, but of a new State. [32]Only at this moment does he declare a fight to the death. Then, from the ‘individual’, who is basically none other than a mere employee, shall emerge a warrior, from the masses, an army, and the positing of a new order of command shall arise, instead of a mere amendment of the social contract. This removes the worker from the sphere of commerce, compassion, literature, and raises him to that of the act, it transforms his legal connections into military ones – that is, he will possess leaders instead of lawyers, and his existence will become norm and measure, instead of requiring construction. (p.16)


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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