For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Twilight of Work: The Labor Question in Nietzsche and Marx"

by Roberts, Michael James (2019)


This essay is an intervention into the debate regarding the possibility and/or desirability of articulating Nietzsche with Marx as a means to expand upon the foundations of critical social theory. Critics who oppose such an articulation do so because they see Nietzsche's political views as elitist, if not reactionary, and therefore incompatible with any Marxist-influenced theoretical project. On the other hand, theorists who do attempt such an articulation focus upon the critique of epistemology at the relative exclusion of politics. By focusing upon the labor question, the following pages present a new way to articulate Nietzsche's cultural analyses with Marx's structural ones. Both thinkers argued for the separation of work from leisure through a critique of the capitalist work ethic. This way of approaching the labor question is largely neglected in much of Marxist theory that seeks the liberation of work rather than the liberation from work. Reading the two thinkers together on the labor question provides an alternative way to understand Nietzsche's perceived aristocratic pretensions while jettisoning the labor metaphysic that plagues much of Marxist theory. A rigorous critique of the work ethic points toward a new way of life beyond the workplace, made possible by the radical reduction of working hours.

Key Passage



Nietzsche, Marx, Work Ethic


On Nietzsche, Marx

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