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 is thus not a matter of connecting ‘community’ and ‘individual’, although both are to be interpreted through form too. However, the content of these words is changing and we will see how much ‘individual’ and ‘community’ within the world of work {42} differ from the ‘individual’ and ‘mass’ of the Nineteenth Century. Our epoch has exhausted itself in this opposition, like in every other opposition, of matter and idea, blood and spirit, power and right, which yield partial interpretations as to whether this or that particular claim is clarified. It is far more important to seek out the form of the worker on a level from which both ‘individual’ and ‘communities’ can be seen as its similes, its representatives. In this sense, equally representative for the worker are [49] the highest expressions of the ‘individual’, already sensed earlier in the Overman*1011, as are those communities living the lives of ants under the spell of work in whose perspective the demand for ‘individuality’ is considered an unauthorized expression of the private sphere. These two ways of life developed in the school of democracy. It can be said about both that they have passed through it, and that they have since then been involved in the annihilation of old values, albeit from apparently opposed directions. Both are, however, as said, similes of the form of the worker, and their internal unity proves itself insofar as the will to total dictatorship recognises itself as the will to total mobilisation in the mirror of a new order.Yet each order, however it may be, resembles the matrix of parallels and meridians on a map whose meaning only emerges through the landscape to which it relates – each order resembles the changing name of dynasties that the mind need not remember to be shaken by their monuments.So too is the form of the worker more deeply and silently embedded in being than all similes and orders by which it is confirmed, more deeply than constitutions and oeuvres, than people and their communities, who are like changing expressions on a face whose basic character remains immutable. (p.28)


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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