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

The position of the individual is made rather more complicated by the fact that [70] he himself is a contradiction, that is: he finds himself on the most advanced frontlines of both battle and work. To hold on to this position and yet not to disappear in it, to be not only the material, but also the bearer of destiny, to understand life not only as the field of necessity, but also of freedom – this is a capacity which has already been characterised as heroic realism. This ability, this real luxury of an extremely threatened species is the basis of a peculiar spectacle which our time allows us to attend: namely, that in the midst of a space filled with anarchic antagonism, a uniform class of leaders is beginning to grow.To the extent that the individual feels attached to the world of work, his heroic view of reality is expressed in the fact that he understands himself as a representative of the form of the worker. We interpret this form as the internal model, as the substantial nucleus of our world, at once active and passive, as something which is quite different from any other type of possibility. The secret will to represent this substance explains the remarkable congruence of utilitarian ideologies, as they developed in multiple versions out of the modern power struggle. Thus, there is hardly a movement which would renounce the claim to be a labour movement; hardly a programme in which the word “social” is not to be discovered in the first sentences (p.43)


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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