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

For this reason, it becomes so important for the worker to refuse every explanation which seeks to interpret his appearance as an [35] economic phenomenon, even as a product of economic processes, thus, basically, as a kind of industrial product, and for him to see through the bourgeois origin of these explanations. No action can cut more effectively through these ominous bonds than the declaration of independence of the worker from the economic world. This does not mean the renunciation of this world, but rather its subordination under a claim to power of a more comprehensive kind. This means that the fulcrum of rebellion is not economic freedom and economic power, but power itself.To the extent that the bourgeois projected his own goals onto those of the worker, he restricted to that same extent the target of attack to a bourgeois target. Today, however, we sense the possibility of a richer, deeper, and more fertile world. To realise it, a fight for freedom sustained by a consciousness of the fact of exploitation is not enough. Everything depends rather on the worker recognising his superiority, creating, by his own {29} standards, his dominion to come. This will strengthen the impetus of his methods – from the attempt to checkmate the opponent by giving notice of resignation, his subjection becomes a conquest.These are no longer the methods of the mere employee, whose greatest happiness lies in the fact that he may dictate the terms of his employment contract, and yet is never able to rise above the internal logic of this contract. These are no longer the methods of the deceived and dispossessed, who with each gain faces the prospect of a fresh fraud. These are not the methods of the debased and the insulted, but rather the methods of the genuine ruler of this world, the means of the warrior who rules over the riches of provinces and cities, and who rules all the more securely the more he despises them. (p.19)


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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