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

In order to be able to understand this, however, one must be capable of another view of work from the conventional one. One must {65} know that in an age of the worker, if he bears his name properly and not in the way in which all parties today call themselves labour parties, there can be nothing which is not understood as work. Work is the rhythm of the fist, of thoughts, of the heart, of life by day and night, of science, love, art, faith, religion, war; work is the oscillation of the atom and the gravity which moves stars and solar systems.Such claims however and many others, of which we will speak, in particular the claim to bestow meaning, are the hallmarks of a growing class of rulers. The question of yesterday read: How does the worker share in the economy, in wealth, art, education, the metropolis, or in science? Tomorrow however it will read: How must all these things look in the space of power of the worker and what meaning shall be ascribed to them?Every claim to freedom within the world of work is therefore possible only if it appears as a claim to work. That means that the degree of freedom of the individual corresponds exactly to the degree to which he is a worker. To be a worker, the representative of a great Form entering history, means to take part in a new humanity determined by its destiny to rule. Is it possible that this consciousness of a new freedom, the consciousness of standing in the place of decision, can be felt in the space of thought as much as behind the whirring of machines and in the mechanical throng of the cities? We do not only have evidence that this is possible, but we also believe that this is the condition of every genuine intervention and that exactly here lies the pivotal point of transformations no redeemer ever dreamt of. (p.45)


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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