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 cunning catchers of votes, the shopkeepers of freedom, the tomfools of power, able to understand meaning only as goal and unity only as number, are worried by an obscure inkling of a new dimension: freedom, such as the one that must arise in the world of work. Since they are completely dependent, however, on the moral scheme of a corrupt Christianity in which work itself appears as evil and the original sin is translated into the material relationship between exploiters and exploited, they can only see freedom as negation, not as redemption from all evil.But there is nothing more evident than the fact that in a world in which the name of the worker signifies the emblem of a rank whose innermost necessity is work, freedom presents itself precisely as an expression of this necessity – or, in other words, every claim to freedom appears as a claim to work.Only if the claim to freedom comes to light in this way does it become possible to speak of a dominion, of an age of the worker. Because it is not a matter of a new political or social class seizing power, but of a new humanity, equal to all great historical figures, meaningfully filling the space of power. Therefore we refuse to see in the worker the representative of a new ‘estate’, a new ‘society’, or a new economy. Because he is neither of these, or rather he is more: that is, the representative of a proper form acting in accordance with its own laws, following its own calling, and participating in a particular freedom. Just as chivalric life was expressed in each detail of a lifestyle unfolding in a chivalric manner, so the life of the worker is either autonomous, an expression of himself and thereby his dominion, or it is nothing other than mere striving for a share in dusty rights, in the well-worn pleasures of a time gone by.  (p.44)


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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