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Notes on Ernst Jünger 's The Worker
I - The Age of the Third Estate as an Age of Illusory Dominion
These notes on The Worker are being prepared for an upcoming discussion of Jünger’s foundational work. I have tried to summarise the most important ideas, these appear numbered with notes, questions, and research where necessary.
Feel free to ask questions or contact me if you are interested in the discussion.
The Age of the Third Estate as an Age of Illusory Dominion
(The age of the third estate was an age of illusory rule.)
1. There are hidden borders which separate Germany from the figure of the bourgeoisie and the third estate; for the German the uniform of this new figure comes from “poorly cut cloth”, thus the workers clothing cannot be the same.
What is the third estate?
“Sieyès posed the famous question: what is the Third Estate? He answered that it is the nation. The Third Estate is nothing and should become everything.”
~ Carl Schmitt
“Who then shall dare to say that the Third Estate has not within itself all that is necessary for the formation of a complete nation? It is the strong and robust man who has one arm still shackled. If the privileged order should be abolished, the nation would be nothing less, but something more. Therefore, what is the Third Estate? Everything; but an everything shackled and oppressed. What would it be without the privileged order? Everything, but an everything free and flourishing. Nothing can succeed without it, everything would be infinitely better without the others.
The Third Estate embraces then all that which belongs to the nation; and all that which is not the Third Estate, cannot be regarded as being of the nation.
What is the Third Estate?
It is the whole.”
~ Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès
Here we see the origin of the illusory dominion and the service that the worker must dedicate himself to. The borders take on a new shape and power, for the German the bourgeois has not appeared as in the rest of Europe – which escalates the battle into a third territory.
2. The German revolt against the values emblazoned on the shield of enlightenment is of a spiritual and elemental battle; its heroism, even though meagerly nourished, digs into the soil like roots, over which forms a new sky of power and justice; the law of blood and spirit takes shape in this conflict.
3. The blood is tested in a final rebellion which forms the species, German statesmen mobilise forces of the past against the incursions of the new order; the blood rather than the spirit meets with victory and defeat.
The spiritual conflict that forms with the revolutions divides race and people, democracy forms a new class which struggles for the species or the security of citizens. The bourgeois figure forms with the increase of an illusory dominion and which struggle is seen determines whether one sees the democratic revolutions spiritually or limited to technical questions.
4. A martial interim in the mobilisation of values; the German finds no happiness and no use for his freedom, it stands as a battle flag before still distant armies.
One may consider here the shift from the nationalism of the frontline soldier.
5. Thus the force of mobilisation enters Germany like a poor translation, while a primordial language resides beneath it; here German fate rests in the balance, a return of the Peasants’ War.
This was the final chance to reconcile the duality of the political force in Germany, the atavism that would form into the Left and Right. It is also a nationalism that must address a loss of the paternal language – Herder’s lessons were not learned by the 19th century.
6. Freedom must be perfected through obligation, and strength through inheritance; its legitimacy is written as a seal in the dominion and heart of man.
Here it would be worthwhile to consider the changing face of freedom. How will the new century receive its freedom after Goethe and Nietzsche? Freedom in the technological century can learn their lessons but can only be expressed through the treacherous passages that have formed.
7. As an iconography of a coat of arms freedom is certain in its fate, its being upheld by duty, enfeoffment; decision cuts pathways, and the German must follow his order even where the world has ended.
A danger here is the Kantian origins and what Hölderlin warns as the historical pain of the Germans: glebae addicti, their being bound to the soil. Is Jünger aware of this early on? How does he address this?
8. The leader is the first servant, and obedience unites the dominion between the roots and the sky with the flash of lightning.
How will the aristocracy resist the cunning of bourgeois nature? Can a leader overcome the faults of Wilhelm II and
9. Dominion and service are one; the Third Estate replaces this law with cheap pleasures; it can never know the sacrifices of the poet exiled to the forest, nor the warrior in the final flames of battle.
10. The old forces now lost, all that remains of heroism appears through the eyes of the worker.
Does the anonymous heroism of WWI take shape? Or is there a laying of ground for heroic return?
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