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 work costume is just as little the costume of a class as the worker himself is to be interpreted as representative of a class. Even less is it to be seen as class-distinctive, for instance as ‘costume of the proletariat’. The proletariat [130] in this sense is mass in the old style, just as its individual facial characteristic is that of the bourgeois without a starched collar. ‘Proletariat’ stands as a very flexible socio-economic concept, but is not an organic construction, hence a symbol of form itself – in the same way that we interpret the proletarian as suffering individual, but not as typus.While bourgeois clothing developed in relation to the older social groupings, the work costume or the work uniform possesses a character of its own and is entirely different; it belongs to the external characteristics of a revolution sans phrase. Its object is not to mark individuality, but to emphasise the typus – which is why it {121} appears everywhere where new groups are formed, be it in the fields of combat, of sport, of camaraderie or of politics. It is also visible on the numerous occasions where it is possible to speak of a crew, thus where man can be glimpsed in close – centaur-like – connection with his technical means. It is evident that the opportunities are multiplying for which a special costume is necessary. But what is perhaps not yet so obvious is the fact that the total work-character conceals itself behind the sum of these occasions. (p.83)


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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