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

No one can choose for himself the school desk at which his character is formed, because the school is decided by the fathers, but there comes a day when one feels oneself outgrow it and recognizes one’s own calling. This must be considered when examining the means of the worker’s clout, and it has to be taken into account that they developed in battle and that in battle every position is related to the action of the opposition. That is why it would be all too simplistic to object that the worker’s existence, like that of a metal yet to be purified, is shot through with bourgeois values, and that his language, which unquestionably belongs to the Twentieth Century, is rich in concepts which were shaped through the questions of the Nineteenth Century. For he depended on the use of these concepts in order to make himself understood when he began to speak for the first time, and the limit of his claims was determined by the claims of his opponent. Thus he took root, slowly and under pressure against the {16} bourgeois overgrowth, in order to finally burst through it, and it is hardly surprising that he bears the traces of this growth....This explains how the memory of the bloody union of the bourgeoisie with power, the memory of the French revolution, was the source which fed and oriented the worker’s first stirrings. But there are just as few repetitions of the historical process as there are transferences of its living contents. So it is that, wherever revolutionary work was thought to be carried out in Germany, only the spectacle of revolution was play-acted, whilst the actual upheavals took place out of sight, be it in quiet spaces, or veiled under the smouldering curtains of battle (p.9)


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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