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What can we learn from the detailed exegesis of Carl von Clausewitz for the study of strategy? Based on a detailed reading of Clausewitz' book On War, this paper proposes that Clausewitz' reflections on strategy unfold along two parallel arguments. First, he explores the principal difficulties of a positive theory of strategy. This critical inquiry shows how quantities and qualities influence each other in war; how events emerge rather uncontrollably from the interplay of action and reaction; and how the fog of war puts a veil of uncertainty over all information. Clausewitz's fundamental critique leads him to the conclusion that a normative theory of strategy is impossible. Clausewitz' second stream of thought investigates how strategy could be studied instead. On the one hand – and based on his famous dictum that war is the continuation of politics by other means – he suggests understanding strategy as a socio-political (rhetorical) mechanism through which people can be convinced in deliberations about a specific course of action. On the other hand, Clausewitz also reflects on the pedagogy of strategy. He concludes that theory may be useful to educate the mind of the future leader, but not to accompany him on the battlefield. The contribution this paper hopes to make to The Age of Strategy: Exploring the Cultural, Organizational, and Political Dimensions of Strategy is twofold: first, the study of Clausewitz represents a contribution to the study of the history of strategic thought. The second contribution is aimed at the relation between strategy as theory and practice. Following Raymond Aron's suggestion, On War does not offer a normative doctrine but rather a critical theory that equips the student of strategy to understand the task at hand ‘without entertaining any absurd claim to communicate the secret of victory.’
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Clausewitz: On strategy
Martin Kornbergera
a Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School,
Frederiksberg, Denmark
Published online: 22 Oct 2013.
To cite this article: Martin Kornberger (2013) Clausewitz: On strategy, Business History, 55:7,
1058-1073, DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2013.838035
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Clausewitz: On strategy
Martin Kornberger*
Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark
What can we learn from the detailed exegesis of Carl von Clausewitz for the study of
strategy? Based on a detailed reading of Clausewitz’ book On War, this paper proposes
that Clausewitz’ reflections on strategy unfold along two parallel arguments. First, he
explores the principal difficulties of a positive theory of strategy. This critical inquiry
shows how quantities and qualities influence each other in war; how events emerge
rather uncontrollably from the interplay of action and reaction; and how the fog of war
puts a veil of uncertainty over all information. Clausewitz’s fundamental critique leads
him to the conclusion that a normative theory of strategy is impossible. Clausewitz’
second stream of thought investigates how strategy could be studied instead. On the one
hand and based on his famous dictum that war is the continuation of politics by other
means he suggests understanding strategy as a socio-political (rhetorical) mechanism
through which people can be convinced in deliberations about a specific course of
action. On the other hand, Clausewitz also reflects on the pedagogy of strategy. He
concludes that theory may be useful to educate the mind of the future leader, but not to
accompany him on the battlefield. The contribution this paper hopes to make to The
Age of Strategy: Exploring the Cultural, Organizational, and Political Dimensions of
Strategy is twofold: first, the study of Clausewitz represents a contribution to the study
of the history of strategic thought. The second contribution is aimed at the relation
between strategy as theory and practice. Following Raymond Aron’s suggestion, On
War does not offer a normative doctrine but rather a critical theory that equips the
student of strategy to understand the task at hand ‘without entertaining any absurd
claim to communicate the secret of victory.’
Keywords: Clausewitz; strategy; organization; war; power; Foucault
This paper sets out to answer the following question: what can we learn from rereading
Clausewitz’ On War for the study of strategy? Such an undertaking appears to be
worthwhile, as most strategists are acquainted with Clausewitz yet only few seem to
engage with his thoughts more thoroughly. In fact, On War enjoys a strange popularity
within the field of strategy and is quite at home in the business sections of airport
bookshops. More academically-oriented publications, however, tend to ignore
Clausewitz’ book. But perhaps both the academic silence and the practitioner’s
affirmative embrace of Clausewitz should be treated with suspicion. Rather, there is a
subtler, more nuanced and perhaps more sceptical current that flows through On War,
which offers a deep understanding of the intricate ontology of war and some profound
epistemological insights into the ambiguities and fallacies of information gathering,
decision making and strategising. It presents a powerful stream of thoughts that overflow
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Business History, 2013
Vol. 55, No. 7, 1058–1073,
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and undermine the narrow confines of instrumental rationality that are characteristic of
most current strategy thinking.
The exegesis of Clausewitz’ oeuvre provides two insights that might be of value for the
student of strategy. First, this study of Clausewitz represents a contribution to the study of
the history of strategic thought. As Hoskin et al. (2006, 167) pointedly argued, ‘much
conventional analysis of strategy [ ...] is misdirected because it has as yet no proper
understanding of the history of strategy’. They contend that strategy scholars suffer from a
‘kind of general historical amnesia’ which results in a ‘shared ahistoricism’ (2006, 184).
Perhaps strategy practitioners may be excused, as they are so busily concerned with the
future that there is little time left to think of the past. Yet strategy scholars who ignore the
history of their subject may misinterpret the relation between contemporary strategy
discourse, its power effects and deeper societal transformations. Reading Clausewitz
means going back to a point in the history of ideas where strategy formed out of the
concern for the possibility of a rational conduct of action in an environment where action,
anticipated reaction and the ongoing calculation of their interplay made prediction (and
legitimacy) of interventions problematic.
Second, Clausewitz offers an alternative pedagogy of strategy. As military educator of
the young Prussian crown prince, and as military officer and general, he reflects on the use
and disadvantage of strategy in life. His conclusions seem rather novel: he suggests using
theory to educate the mind of the future leader but not to accompany him on the battlefield.
In the words of Aron (1983, viii), author of a seminal book on Clausewitz’ thinking, On
War does not offer a doctrine but rather a theory ‘which would teach the strategist to
understand his task without entertaining any absurd claim to communicate the secret of
victory’. Hence the second contribution this paper aims to make is towards the relation
between strategy as theory and practice.
A close reading of On War does not bring to the fore Clausewitz the advisor, the master
of strategy and tactics who offers truths on how to conduct war, but Clausewitz the
pragmatist, the critic who weighs with care each word with which he describes strategy, as
if he would send words like troops into battle. Methodologically, this warrants that the
interpretation put forward in the paper has to remain close to the original text. The paper is
structured as follows: first, it examines what Clausewitz termed the ‘principal difficulty of
a positive theory of strategy’. Three fundamental questions (How to account for quantities
and qualities? How to cope with reactivity? How to know in the midst of the fog of war?)
articulate Clausewitz’ argument that a positive theory of strategy resembles nothing more
than, as he puts it, ‘the horrid dreams of generalization’. In the second part, this paper
explores how strategy could be studied alternatively. Consonant with Clausewitz, this
paper suggests that strategy should be investigated in its relation to society, power and
history, resulting in a critical approach. Furthermore, this paper discusses how critical
strategy neither judges nor guides practice normatively but fulfils a different, precise and
valuable function for practice. It concludes with a short vignette from the Cuban Missile
Crisis, which illustrates how a Clausewitz-inspired notion of strategy could be utilised
empirically, and a short reflection on the implications for future studies in strategy,
organization and society.
On the principal difficulty of a theory of strategy
Clausewitz’ afterlife
Published posthumously in 1832 by his widow Marie von Clausewitz, On War is the result
of Clausewitz’ thinking over more than three decades, a time during which he served as
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a military officer, experienced several war battles, worked as a military educator to the
Prussian Crown prince and acted as director of the military academy, Allgemeine
Kriegsschule, in Berlin. Dissatisfied with existing theories of war and increasingly
disgruntled with his formal positions, he set out to develop a comprehensive analytics of
war. By the time of his death in 1831 the project had grown into an assemblage of books,
essays, sketches, fragments and notes (see Aron, 1983). During his lifetime, he only
published anonymously several short commentaries. Quietly, his major work, On War,
took shape in private. Clausewitz was fully aware that he would not see through its
publication during his lifetime; he must have felt confident that the manuscripts he
entrusted his wife in a sealed box would find a growing readership after his death.
Indeed, some writers are born posthumously, as Nietzsche once remarked. While
possibly true in other fields, Clausewitz’ reincarnation in business school strategy
departments has yet to take place.
From the outset, the study of strategy that proliferated
in business schools from the mid-twentieth century onwards (see Carter et al., 2008a,
2008b,2010) was characterised by an ambiguous relationship with Clausewitz’ opus. On
the one hand, practitioners and those who write for them display an affectionate fondness
towards the Prussian general. However superficial their engagement with Clausewitz, they
adopt him as an intellectual father figure. For instance, the Boston Consulting Group,
not normally known for having an overly philosophical approach, compiled a ‘best of
Clausewitz’ edition of On War. In the introduction the editors ask why Clausewitz’ work is
of relevance for today’s strategist and argue that Clausewitz ‘can speak the executive’s
mind because it is his own’ (2001, 6). Alongside Niccolo
`Machiavelli’s The Prince and
Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Clausewitz’ book is framed as systematic, practice-based analysis
of strategy mastering real world events. Of course, by sketching their intellectual
trajectory backwards to Clausewitz and beyond, contemporary strategists can claim
foundations of their discipline that transcend the numerical monotony of Excel spread
sheets, the simplicity of 2 £2 matrices and rather biblical metaphors such as that of blue
and red oceans (see Kornberger, 2012;Kurunma
¨ki and Miller, 2013).
On the other hand, and not without irony, the scholarly discussions about strategy
remain silent on Clausewitz. Unsurprisingly, the predominantly North American,
economics-inspired strategy theory, with its focus on firm performance, generally ignores
Clausewitz (see Nag et al., 2007;Furrer et al., 2008). Strangely, the more social science-
and organizationally-oriented studies on strategy usually do not engage with Clausewitz’
thoughts either. For instance, widely used textbooks such as Johnson et al.’s Exploring
Corporate Strategy (2008) do not find Clausewitz worth a mention. Recent handbooks that
claim to provide a comprehensive survey of the field and map out possible future
developments do not see Clausewitz as part of their intellectual past or future. For
example, the Handbook of Strategy and Management edited by Pettigrew et al. (2002)
does not reference Clausewitz, nor does the Cambridge Handbook of Strategy as Practice
(Golsorkhi et al., 2010). The lacuna becomes particularly obvious when the chapters on
the history and the evolution of strategy in both handbooks remain silent on Clausewitz’
contribution (see Ericson and Melin, 2010;Bowman et al., 2002;Jeremy, 2002). Even
accounts of strategy that brand themselves as alternative, such as Cummings’ ReCreating
Strategy (2002), explicitly historical (e.g. Hoskin et al., 2006), or critical (e.g. Knights and
Morgan, 1991) fall short of mobilising On War as a discursive resource against
mainstream strategy research. These critical works have emerged in response to the
functionalist accounts of strategy and seek to highlight the unintended and potentially
negative effects of strategy. They remain, as an extension of the critical (management
studies) project, tied to the concept of strategy they seek to critique. In their view, strategy
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is not (only) a means to increase firm performance, but (also) a technology of domination
and control (Knights and Morgan, 1991). Consequently, Clausewitz’ writing, to date, has
not inspired strategy writers to develop alternative approaches.
In sum, the field of strategy follows an instrumental rationality that is concerned with
means-end relationships, intentionality and predictability of the future or the critique
thereof (Clegg et al., 2004). The debates within the field circle around the influence of the
environment on firm performance and the role of internal capabilities (including the ability
to shape environments) and the merits of macro-analysis as opposed to the minute details
of practice studies. Despite disagreements, their common denominator is to view (or
criticise) strategy as a positive science that can explain and perhaps influence future
performance. Clausewitz was rather sceptical about whether developing a theory of
strategy is a feasible undertaking in the first place. The section in On War on the ‘principal
difficulty of a theory for the conduct of war’ discusses three properties that make war
resilient to general theorising.
Principal difficulty 1: how to account for quantities and qualities?
In their writings on strategy, Clausewitz’ contemporaries provided laws that, if followed,
would result in successful outcomes. For instance, Heinrich von Bu
¨low’s Spirit of the
System of Modern Warfare (1805) suggested a form of geometric dogmatism in which the
geometric set up of the troops should determine a battle’s outcome (Aron, 1983, 45).
Based on his own experience, Clausewitz refuted such theorems as trivial. War is more
complex, he insisted: its ‘first speciality’ is that it is not only determined by physical
quantities (such as distribution of people in space) but that it depends largely on ‘moral
forces and their effects’. Consequently, he refutes attempts to develop a theory of war as
‘unserviceable’ because military action deals with material and living forces:
All these attempts at theory are only to be considered in their analytical part as progress in the
province of truth, but in their synthetical part, in their precepts and rules, they are quite
unserviceable. They strive after determinate quantities, whilst in war all is undetermined, and
the calculation has always to be made with varying quantities. They direct the attention only
upon material forces, while the whole military action is penetrated throughout by intelligent
forces and their effects. They only pay regard to activity on one side, whilst war is a constant
state of reciprocal action, the effects of which are mutual. (71)
Decisive ‘intelligent forces’ such as the morale of the troops or motivation defy
quantification and calculation. These forces remain undetermined, yet they have a major
impact on the force of observable quantities: what do the number of troops or canons
reveal if their actual effectiveness is a function of a quality impossible to account for, such
as courage or morale? Clausewitz saw Napoleon and Friedrich II winning battles against
armies that outsized them in numbers; but obviously, the outcome of a battle results from
the mobilisation of people and resources, and what in want of a better word is termed their
morale. Hence Clausewitz concluded that the different qualities and quantities form the
basic elements of the conduct in war. Clausewitz introduces the notion of ‘friction’ to
elaborate on the relation between these elements. Even seemingly minute objects are
equipped with powers to disrupt the military machinery:
Friction is the only conception which in a general way corresponds to that which distinguishes
real war from war on paper. The military machine, the army and all belonging to it, is in fact
simple, and appears on this account easy to manage. But let us reflect that no part of it is in one
piece, that it is composed entirely of individuals, each of which keeps up its own friction in all
directions. Theoretically all sounds very well: the commander of a battalion is responsible for
the execution of the order given; and as the battalion by its discipline is glued together into one
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piece, and the chief must be a man of acknowledged zeal, the beam turns on an iron pin with
little friction. But it is not so in reality, and all that is exaggerated and false in such a
conception manifests itself at once in war. The battalion always remains composed of a
number of men, of whom, if chance so wills, the most insignificant is able to occasion delay
and even irregularity. (83)
The strategist deals with simplified representations of what, in reality, amounts to an
assemblage of heterogeneous networks. The activities of strategists, such as moving their
army, equipping troops with weapons and assessing their morale, rely entirely on abstract
representations. In reality, each apparent unity is assembled and made up of myriad parts
that pull in different directions, causing friction. Clausewitz stresses that it is the obscure
detail, the seemingly meaningless that will shape the outcome of a battle. A theory of war
would have to take into account circumstance, serendipity, chance, coincidence and all
those other idiosyncratic occurrences that influence the course of events. Of course,
strategists could decide to ignore the heterogeneity and complexity of reality and force
their will on events. Clausewitz warns:
So in war, through the influence of an infinity of petty circumstances, which cannot properly
be described on paper, things disappoint us, and we fall short of the mark. A powerful iron
will overcomes this friction; it crushes the obstacles, but certainly the machine along with
them. (83)
Clausewitz has Napoleon’s failed Russian campaign in mind. Continuously moving
backwards, the tsar gave the French troops so much space to conquer that their move
forward left them exhausted and consumed. Choosing an apt metaphor, Clausewitz
suggests moving through war is like walking in water. What looks simple and easy on land
(or paper) turns into a strenuous activity:
Activity in war is movement in a resistant medium [ ...] This is the reason that the correct
theorist is like a swimming master, who teaches on dry land movements which are required in
the water, which must appear grotesque and ludicrous to those who forget about the water. (84)
Principal difficulty 2: how to cope with reactivity?
War consists of different elements, some quantitative (number of troops or guns) and
others qualitative (morale and courage). Circumstances such as terrain and weather but
also sheer luck and coincidence play an important role on the battlefield. Clausewitz
analyses the relation between these elements as a ‘living reaction’ that adds another layer
of complexity to the problem of calculation of qualitative and quantitative forces discussed
We do not here speak of the difficulty of estimating that reaction, for that is included in the
difficulty before mentioned, of treating the moral powers as quantities; but of this, that
reciprocal action, by its nature, opposes anything like a regular plan. (103)
Because of the complex interaction of qualitative and quantitative forces, and
their reciprocal nature, the outcome of a battle, let alone a war, defies planning and
prediction. Clausewitz identifies the preconditions under which prediction in war would
be possible:
1. War becomes a completely isolated act, which arises suddenly, and is in no way
connected with the previous history of the combatant states.
2. If it is limited to a single decision, or to several simultaneous decisions.
3. If it contains within itself the solution perfect and complete, free from any reaction
upon it, through a calculation before-hand of the political situation which will follow
from it. (26)
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Of course, Clausewitz knows that none of the three simple assumptions holds true in
war. War is a temporal phenomenon in which the future, the present and the past
collide like tectonic plates. War is contingent on historical events which in turn colour
perception and filter information. Moreover, war consists of a web of consecutive
decisions that influence each other. Finally, the political realities that may result from
war feed back on the conduct of war itself. For Clausewitz, war follows a paradoxically
temporal logic in which the arrow of time is bent and the future has the power to
shape the present: war is influenced by expectations of what might happen after
it ended, which in turn influences the course of events during battle. In other words, it
is the problem of self-fulfilling and self-defeating prophecies that subvert strategy’s
linear time.
Principal difficulty 3: how to know in the midst of the fog of war?
The third and final peculiarity of war is the ‘uncertainty of data’ that it produces and feeds
on. Clausewitz defines information as the fundamental element in war: ‘By the word
“information” we denote all the knowledge which we have of the enemy and his country;
therefore, in fact, the foundation of all our ideas and actions’ (59).
Unfortunately, the importance of information seems to be inversely related to its
reliability: information is subject to frequent changes and is little trustworthy, Clausewitz
writes, and hence ‘we shall soon feel what a dangerous edifice war is, how easily it may
fall to pieces and bury us in its ruins’ (59). ‘War’, explains Clausewitz, ‘is the province of
uncertainty’, and that ‘three-fourths of those things upon which action in war must be
based upon are hidden in the fog of a more or less great uncertainty’. Empirical
illustrations of the most vivid kind are provided in Tolstoy’s War and Peace; the novel, in
which Clausewitz makes an unfavourable – appearance as a Prussian military officer,
beautifully describes the fog of war and the resulting confusions and misunderstandings in
the combating armies.
Yet Clausewitz’ problem revolves around how to deal with the dilemma of incomplete
and uncertain information. The most obvious solution would be to evaluate information
carefully, treating it as hypothetical until further information falsifies or verifies its
premises, and adjusting the strategy continuously. Indeed, Clausewitz considers this
argument in detail:
From this uncertainty of all intelligence and suppositions, this continual interposition of
chance, the actor in war constantly finds things different from his expectations; and this cannot
fail to have an influence on his plans, or at least on the presumptions connected with these
plans. If this influence is so great as to render the predetermined plan completely nugatory,
then, as a rule, a new one must be substituted in its place; but at the moment the necessary data
are often wanting for this, because in the course of action circumstances press for immediate
decision, and allow no time to look about for fresh data, often not enough for mature
consideration. (47)
Whilst plans become obsolete as soon as the battle starts, new plans cannot be drawn up
because of missing data and a lack of time to digest the information available. Data
sourcing and processing capacity put definite limits on the adjustment of plans to events.
But Clausewitz goes beyond such a bounded rationality argument. He argues that
information brings a second, more dangerous element into play:
But it more often happens that the correction of one premise, and the knowledge of chance
events which have arisen, are not sufficient to overthrow our plans completely, but only
suffice to produce hesitation. Our knowledge of circumstances has increased, but our
uncertainty, instead of having diminished, has only increased. (47)
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Clausewitz proposes an interesting paradox: the more we know about the ‘infinity of petty
circumstances’, the more information we have at hand, the more our uncertainty will
increase. In short, the amount of information available correlates positively with the level
of uncertainty experienced. Every piece of information brings a detail into focus; yet the
potential connections between these pieces of information explode with each new detail.
Formulaically, as information increases linearly, potential relations between pieces of data
explode exponentially. Hence more information produces more uncertainty.
Clausewitz identifies a third pathological dimension of information gathering.
Contradictory, false and doubtful information confuse the decision-making process.
Truthful information, so common sense tells, improves the quality of decision making.
Clausewitz disagrees, arguing that it is much more problematic if new pieces of
information arrive at the strategist’s desk, confirm each other and add up to a neat big
It is much worse for the inexperienced when accident does not render him this service
[conflicting information being reported from the theatre of war], but one report supports
another, confirms it, magnifies it, finishes off the picture with fresh touches of colour, until
necessity in urgent haste forces from us a resolution which will soon be discovered to be folly,
all those reports having been lies, exaggerations, errors, etc., etc. (60)
While information increases complexity and uncertainty, those pieces of data that
seemingly confirm a chosen course of action are even more problematic. They only
enliven the illusion of the big picture, making the strategist forget about its aesthetic
nature. An irreconcilable dilemma opens up: information is the foundation of all actions.
Paradoxically, on the one hand, information that contradicts the intended course of action
produces uncertainty that may lead to hesitation and paralysis; on the other hand,
information that confirms the strategist’s plans seduces him to act overconfidently and
provides a false sense of certainty that will lead ultimately to demise.
Why a positive theory of strategy is impossible: the horrid dreams of generalisation
Clausewitz’ reflections on the three principal difficulties of a theory of war pose
fundamental challenges to any positive theory of strategy. First, Clausewitz points out the
importance of qualities that influence the course of events, yet they can hardly be
quantified and made part of a rational calculation. Imagined as a coherent singular entity,
an army is in reality constituted through a heterogeneous network of things and people, all
of which are subject to centrifugal and centripetal forces, simultaneously pulling them
apart and pushing them against each other. The resulting friction produced by the minutest
detail, the smallest event, the least significant person constantly threatens to disintegrate
the military machine. The iron will of the leader may overcome that friction, but, to put it
in Clausewitz’ words, when the leader crushes the obstacles, she crushes the machine
along with them. Second, the elements of war are not only incommensurable and
constantly in friction with each other, they are also reactive: war involves living forces that
react to actions and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Hence, whether a move was right
or wrong can only be judged in hindsight after the reaction of the opponent has occurred.
However, it is a theory of little value if its truth claims are contingent on the unpredictable
reaction of others and can only be evaluated in retrospect. Third, Clausewitz understands
war as an information problem. Limited by bounded rationality, common sense advises to
update strategy constantly to reflect changing conditions. For Clausewitz, the problem
resides exactly therein: new knowledge will not overthrow the entire strategy, but it may
cause hesitation. The more information we receive, the more our uncertainty increases.
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Yet it is even more harmful if the information we receive from the battlefield confirms
the grand plan: in this case the confidence of the strategist will increase until one
unexpected event eventually destroys the strategist’s paper edifice; and with it, the
strategist’s army.
The three difficulties that Clausewitz elaborates in painstaking detail represent a
fundamental critique of any positive theory of strategy. No matter whether strategy
theories follow an outside-in approach (e.g. environmental analyses) or an inside-out
approach (e.g. resource-based perspectives), the Clausewitzian critique dismantles them.
They might sound ‘theoretically very well’, but turn out to be of little value as soon as the
‘friction’ of reality starts its grinding work. Action in war is ‘movement in a resistant
medium’, a resistance that feeds off an ‘infinity of petty circumstances’. A theory of
strategy would have to include a systematic analysis of the minute details that potentially
could trigger big events. Even events that do not happen might have an important impact
on the future state of affairs.
These criticisms amount to Clausewitz’ fundamental concern: the fog of war obscures
the strategist’s view, obstructing attempts to develop strategy as a disciplined, systematic
body of knowledge about the conduct of war. Clausewitz concludes that a ‘positive theory
[of war] is impossible’ (75). His scepticism in regards to a positive science of strategy finds
its fullest and finest expression on a mere one and a half pages dedicated to the ‘elements
of strategy’, including moral, physical, mathematical, geographical and statistical
elements. After identifying these elements, Clausewitz reminds us that:
to treat upon strategy according to these elements would be the most unfortunate idea that
could be conceived, for these elements are generally manifold and intimately connected with
each other in every single operation of war. We should lose ourselves in the most soulless
analysis, and as if in a horrid dream, we should be for ever trying in vain to build up an arch to
connect this base of abstractions with facts belonging to the real world. (157)
The forever changing constellation of elements that make up war prevents generalising
singular events into an abstract theory. Such attempts are condemned to be nothing more
than a ‘soulless analysis’. Because each movement in war follows its own context-specific
logic, Clausewitz is critical toward any form of generalisation:
What is more natural than that the war of the French Revolution had its own way of doing
things? And what theory could ever have included that peculiar method? The evil is only that
such a manner originating in a special case easily outlives itself, because it continues whilst
circumstances imperceptibly change. (87)
For Clausewitz, the ‘evil’ of generalisation results from the discrepancy between static
representations on paper and the ever so slightly changing reality. The ‘evil which we
constantly stumble upon is a lame, totally inadmissible application of certain one-sided
systems as of a formal code of laws’ (99). It is the ‘pompous retinue of technical terms’
and the pseudo-systematic appearance of analyses which create those ‘horrid dreams’ the
student of strategy suffers from:
Any critic who has not adopted a system, either because he has not found one to please him, or
because he has not yet been able to make himself master of one, will at least occasionally
make use of a piece of one, as one would use a ruler, to show the blunders committed by a
general. The most of them are incapable of reasoning without using as a help here and there
some shreds of scientific military theory. The smallest of these fragments, consisting in mere
scientific words and metaphors, are often nothing more than ornamental flourishes of critical
narration. Now it is in the nature of things that all technical and scientific expressions which
belong to a system lose their propriety, if they ever had any, as soon as they are distorted, and
used as general axioms, or as small crystalline talismans, which have more power of
demonstration than simple speech. (99)
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Hence any ambition to create a ‘science of war’ in the strictest sense turns out to be a
dangerous illusion. For the analytical vocabulary derived from past events serves as
nothing but a ruler to judge action in hindsight, but it fails to provide guidance for the
future (McKinlay et al., 2010;Mueller et al., 2013). Once generalised, words and
metaphors become ossified in a system and lose their value, resembling ‘crystalline
How, then, is the study of strategy possible?
Means by which strategy can be studied: society, power, history
Strategy, interest and society
Clausewitz’ famous dictum that war is the continuation of politics by other means provides
an important clue for the study of strategy. In his words, politics are ‘the womb in which
war develops where its outlines already exist in their hidden, rudimentary, form, like the
characteristics of living creatures in their embryos’ (83). Clausewitz argues that politics
and war are situated along the same continuum. War is not the exception to or the
suspension of politics, but its logical extension. Clausewitz summarised this idea in the
equation that war might possess its own grammar, but not its own logic. War is always an
‘instrument of policy’ and its logic is of a political nature:
war can never be separated from political intercourse, and if, in the consideration of the
matter, this is done in any way, all the threads of the different relations are, to a certain extent,
broken, and we have before us a senseless thing without an object. This kind of idea would be
indispensable even if war was perfect war, the perfectly unbridled element of hostility, for all
the circumstances on which it rests, and which determine its leading features, viz. our own
power, the enemy’s power, allies on both sides, the characteristics of the people and their
Governments respectively, etc., [ ...] are they not of a political nature, and are they not so
intimately connected with the whole political intercourse that it is impossible to separate
them? (83)
War, Clausewitz believes, has to be understood as ‘part of the whole’, the whole being
politics. This idea occupied Foucault, who, in an interview before his death, said that the
last thing he would like to study in his life would be war and the institution of war in
society (Foucault, 1996). What sparked Foucault’s interest? He turned Clausewitz’ dictum
on its head: if war is the continuation of politics by other means, said Foucault, then
politics can also be conceived of as extension of war by other means. In his words (1994b:
295), the question is: ‘[w]ho first thought that politics was war pursued by other means?’
While war is the extension of politics, politics, in turn, internalise the mechanisms of war
inside its own body politic. Society can drift anytime into war; even peaceful periods
contain the seeds of destruction. But that also means that war has to be institutionalised
within society, a point Foucault made repeatedly in his lectures in the late 1970s (Foucault,
1994b;Reid, 2003;Deacon, 2003). Disciplinary forms of power give testimony to how
military technologies spread throughout society. For instance, Frederick Taylor’s
scientific management was a technology of power that controlled the body of the worker in
a fashion similar to how the Prussian military had reorganised its infantry (Foucault,
1977). For Foucault, war provides the model for organising society: ‘the force relationship
which for a long time had found expression in war, in every form of warfare, gradually
became invested in the order of power’ (Foucault, quoted in Reid, 2003, 4).
While Foucault sees war as providing an analytics of politics in society, Clausewitz
attempts to understand the political nature of war. Yet, for both authors, strategy plays a
central role in the relation between politics and war: strategy represents the
epistemological space which contains both politics and war. Both politics and war
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represent different ends of a continuum marked by power relations. These power relations
are the subject of strategy, as Foucault argues:
relations of power are strategic relations. Every time one side does something, the other
responds by developing a conduct, a behaviour that counterinvests it, tries to escape it, diverts
it, turns the attack against itself, etc. This nothing is ever stable in these power relations.
(quoted in Reid, 2003, 4)
Strategy always relates to, and is constitutive of, power relations because it aims at
changing the conduct of the opponent. Hence Foucault (1994a: 142) suggests decoding
‘the mechanisms brought into play in power relations in terms of strategies’. In short,
strategy must always be analysed as strategy of power, i.e. as an attempt to assert control
and to influence things, people and events.
Clausewitz and Foucault would have agreed on that point, perhaps. However, they
differ in their analysis as to why strategy plays a central role across the continuum,
enveloping both war and politics. Foucault develops the notion of governmentality to
describe how strategies of power structure possible actions and influence the conduct of
conduct. He (1994c) relates the debate back to Machiavelli and his interlocutors, who were
concerned (and disagreed) about the art of governing and government.
Clausewitz suggests an alternative reading of strategies of power. For him it is the
concept of ‘commerce’ that can be used to explicate the relation between politics and war:
We therefore conclude that war does not belong in the realm of arts and sciences; rather it is
part of man’s social existence. War is a clash between major interests, which is resolved by
bloodshed that is the only way which it differs from other conflicts. Rather than comparing
it to art we could more accurately compare it to commerce, which is also a conflict of human
interests and activities; and it is still closer to politics, which in turn may be considered as a
kind of commerce on a larger scale. (83)
As this quote suggests, Clausewitz believes that commerce provides the mechanism to
understand the strategies of power at play in war and politics. He understands commerce as
the principle through which both politics and war are organised.
The key characteristic of commerce is (at least to some degree) conflicting interest
between trading parties. As Hirschman (1977) argued, the concept of interest began with
the enlightenment to represent the dominant mode of political thought in the Western
world, amalgamating the force of passion with the scrutiny of reason. A commercial
society is a society concerned with the calculation of interests (Smith, 1994). To think
strategically means not to be guided by a general law or higher principles; rather, it means
to base one’s actions on the anticipated reaction that might follow. The principle of
reactivity becomes the organising mode of a commercial society, the anticipated future
reaction becoming the rationale for action and the criteria for decision making in the
present. In a strange reversal of time the future paradoxically casts its shadow back on the
present, moulding it in the face of the yet-to-come. The teleological notion of time is
replaced by a circular notion of time. Feedback, and not the force of law or principle,
represents the main stimulus for action.
This gives rise to some unintended consequences. To strategise means to constantly
seize up the space between politics and war, anticipating conflicts by relating one’s own
interests to that of others who, of course, do the same. The constant adjustment of one’s
own action causes continuous adjustments by all other actors in the environment. On an
aggregated level, the attempt to reduce uncertainty through strategy by individual actors
increases the overall complexity and uncertainty. Like the Keynesian beauty contest where
one has to guess who the majority of people will find most beautiful, one’s decisions
cannot be based on one’s own tastes; rather, one has to anticipate how others will vote
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who themselves calculate an imaginary average as the basis for their decision ... and so
on ad infinitum:
It is not a case of choosing those [faces] that, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the
prettiest, nor even those that average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached
the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion
expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practice the fourth, fifth
and higher degrees. (Keynes, 1936, 156)
In a commercial society dominated by the mutual calculation of interests, strategy
reproduces itself, and with it, conflict, in an endless spiral. In so doing it produces, as a side
effect, a general nervousness in which, as a business strategist once wrote, ‘only the
paranoid survive.’
Power and strategy
Strategy’s calculation leads to a paradox: if a true theory existed about a successful
strategy that would become obvious to both conflicting parties, one could expect both to
deviate from the true strategy to reap the benefits of surprise. The truth put forward in the
theory would defeat itself, so to speak. Its truth would be a function of its dissemination.
Hence strategy cannot represent a body of knowledge about how to manage and master
future conflicts successfully. In one of the accompanying reflections to On War,
Clausewitz writes:
The theory of the Grande Guerre, or Strategy, as it is called, is beset with extraordinary
difficulties, and we may affirm that very few men have clear conceptions of the separate
subjects, that is, conceptions carried up to their full logical conclusions. In real action most
men are guided merely by the tact of judgment which hits the object more or less accurately,
according as they possess more or less genius. This is the way in which all great Generals have
acted, and therein partly lay their greatness and their genius, that they always hit upon what
was right by this tact. Thus also it will always be in action, and so far this tact is amply
sufficient. (18)
A theory of strategy, Clausewitz reiterates, would have to deal with such a high level of
complexity that it would undermine its attempts to make the past intelligible and the future
predictable. Rather than theory, it is the ‘tact of judgment’ of a more or less genius
person that guides action. By definition, genius is a concept that defies explanation or
categorisation, i.e. it black-boxes decisions and attributes them to individual abilities
beyond reasoning. Napoleon and Friedrich II serve as Clausewitz’ favourite examples for
the genius’ impenetrable effectiveness. For action does not need strategic reflection; as he
points out, tact is amply sufficient for appropriate action. If tact suffices though, where and
how does the need for strategy arise? In continuation of the same excerpt quoted above,
Clausewitz provides a crucial reflection on the role of strategy:
But when it is a question, not of acting oneself, but of convincing others in a consultation, then
all depends on clear conceptions and demonstration of the inherent relations, and so little
progress has been made in this respect that most deliberations are merely a contention of
words, resting on no firm basis, and ending either in every one retaining his own opinion, or in
a compromise from mutual considerations of respect, a middle course really without any
value. (18)
This passage is of great significance: strategy becomes necessary not when the need to act
arises but when others need to be convinced in consultation. Strategy is a means of
narrating how possible actions could relate to each other and form a cohesive pattern. The
clearness and consistency of the strategic narrative performs its function in deliberations
and political debate, not on the battlefield. In other words, strategy represents a mechanism
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to gather political support for ideas during consultation with others. The theory of the
Grande Guerre is not a blueprint for action but a discursive device to influence, legitimise
and justify political action.
The genius of Clausewitz is in anticipating a shift in the socio-political constitution of
society. It furnishes politics with a narrative infrastructure that allows truth claims to be
made and contested. In this context strategy represents a novel form of legitimating truth
claims. Indeed, a sovereign modelled after Hobbes’ Leviathan would not need to be
strategic. The sovereign’s words are orders that do not need to convince but have to be
obeyed. Similarly, Rousseau’s society, which is bound through contractual arrangements,
would have limited use for strategy, as order is derived through exegesis of the law and its
enforcement. Both Hobbes and Rousseau represent traditional tropes of contractual social
order, derived from either executive fiat or general will. At the heart of both there is a
fictional gathering of citizens who agree on delegating their powers because the newly-
formed executive’s interest equals their own best interest.
The strategist represents a new figure, a new mode of exercising power that
complements those of the sovereign and the contrat social. Its defining element, according
to Clausewitz, is the fact that strategy structures the political space of deliberations and
negotiations in which different actors struggle over meanings and conflicting interests. Put
metaphorically, strategy represents the continuation of Machiavellism with other means; it
is not the prince who imposes his will on his subordinates but the institution of war and its
strategic rationality that enable the calculation and balancing of interests, just like trade
and commerce enable balancing needs and wants. The necessity for strategy emerges out
of several voices that compete for authoring the future course of action. In such situations,
strategy offers itself as a discursive device in which authors attempt to assert their
authority. In this sense strategy marks the sovereign’s tacit acknowledgement that the
world is polycentric and it indicates the beginning of an age in which convincing
arguments need to be based on certain forms of representation (such as numbers) to
become persuasive. In other words, through strategy, politics becomes aestheticised.
Strategy is always a representation of perspectives, a staging of facts, speeches given on
behalf of a real clientele or an imagined community, and a silencing of other voices; it is
about canvassing the big picture and seducing through its aesthetics (see Kornberger,
2012;Kornberger and Clegg, 2011).
Making strategy critical
If a general, prescriptive theory of strategy is impossible to develop, how does knowledge
about strategy relate to practice? A subheading in Clausewitz’ second book is ‘Means left
by which a theory is possible (the difficulties are not everywhere equally great)’. For
Clausewitz, nothing could be more detrimental pedagogically than listening to heroes and
their success stories. Best practice examples, to translate it into modern strategy-speak, do
more harm than good. These accounts are misleading because the final result colours the
events that preceded it, yet results and actions might have been only loosely connected
with each other. In the words of Clausewitz:
If it [success] has not proceeded from accidental circumstances, it is almost impossible that
the knowledge of it should not have an effect on the judgement passed on events which have
preceded it, for we see these things in the light of this result, and it is to a certain extent by it
that we first become acquainted with them and appreciate them. (96)
Hero stories give rise to the illusion that the experienced success is causally linked to
actions that are open for analysis, can be separated from the context of these actions, and if
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repeated would lead to the same result. A simple thought experiment already mentioned
above problematises these assumptions. Imagine two armies facing each other in battle;
both their generals have read the same hero story about a past success. Even if we (against
Clausewitz) assume that the story contained some valuable information, this information
becomes useless if both generals have read it. This leads to the paradoxical result that the
truth of strategy as a normative science is a function of its dissemination. But what kind of
truth depends on its dissemination to remain true?
Disillusioned by the impossibility to define a positive theory of strategy, Clausewitz
proposes a different episteme of war and strategy. For him, the ‘possibility of a theory lies
in the point of view that it does not necessarily require to be a direction for action.’ (76).
Although theory cannot claim to guide action, it plays a different and precise role in the
education of the future strategist. Clausewitz posits that ‘[theory] should educate the mind
of the future leader in war, or rather guide him in his self-instruction, but not accompany
him to the field of battle’ (76). In other words, strategy theory is an instrument for
reflection that prepares the mind of the leader for the complexities and subtleties of reality.
In order to accomplish such an educational purpose, strategy has to be critical:
The influence of theoretical principles upon real life is produced more through criticism than
through doctrine, for criticism is an application of abstract truth to real events; therefore it not
only brings truth of this description nearer to life, but also accustoms reason more to such
truths by the constant repetition of their application. (88)
Strategic knowledge represents a threefold criticism: it is critical in as far as it is historical
knowledge; an investigation of the effects (as opposed to the success) of actions; and an
examination of the means used in a given situation. Hence critical strategy is not a
negative undertaking; rather, like the critical mass necessary to cause a chemical reaction,
criticality in strategy is concerned with the conditions of the possibility for certain effects
to come into existence. Consequently the critical study of strategy is the antidote of the
much-celebrated case study that provides the dominant genre of strategy knowledge. The
case study promises to reveal the causes of success within its own narrative and to capture
cause and effects in a doctrine that transcends its origins. The episteme of a Clausewitz-
inspired strategy does not follow the path from the singular to the abstract and
generalisable. Rather it takes it cues from a critical and detailed study of historical events.
In this sense, the study of strategy is not concerned with the future (as strategy seems to
suggest) but with the past. It does not produce monumental or antiquarian histories of great
personalities fighting grand battles; rather, strategy scholarship resembles critical history
that recognises, to paraphrase Nietzsche (1967), the blood and horror at the bottom of all
good things.
Concluding remarks
Following Clausewitz into the field, what would a narrative of strategy focus upon? Not
many events in recent history have been of a more strategic nature than the Cuban Missile
Crisis. On Friday 26 October 1962, four days after Kennedy had announced publicly that
the presence of Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba was unacceptable, Khrushchev sent a
letter to the US administration that marked the beginning of the end of the crisis. The letter
[I]f indeed war should break out, then it would not be in our power to contain or stop it, for
such is the logic of war. I have participated in two wars and know that war ends when it has
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rolled through cities and villages, everywhere sowing death and destruction [ ...]. We and you
ought not now to pull on the ends of the rope in which you have tied the knot of war, because
the more the two of us pull, the tighter that knot will be tied. And a moment may come when
that knot will be tied so tight that even he who tied it will not have the strength to untie it, and
then it will be necessary to cut that knot. And what that would mean is not for me to explain to
you, because you yourself understand perfectly of what terrible forces our countries dispose
[...]. (Khrushchev’s letter to Kennedy from 26 October 1962, quoted in Munton and Welch,
2007, 72 73)
The next morning a new and altogether different letter from Khrushchev arrived at the
White House. In matter-of-fact language the letter demanded, amongst other things, that
the US withdraw its Jupiter missiles from Turkey, a deal the US could not accept (at least
publicly) as it would have divided its NATO partners. The Kennedy administration faced a
Kafkaesque situation. There were two contradicting letters on the table, one poetic, written
by someone who seemed truly concerned and emotional, and another one, written by a
hardliner who did not seem to shy away from nuclear conflict. Former ambassador to
Moscow, Tommy Thompson, and others urged the president to respond to the first letter
and to ignore the second one. Thompson knew Khrushchev personally and could
empathise with the situation Khrushchev found himself in. Thompson argued that out of a
rushed idea to support his Cuban friend Castro, Khrushchev had created a situation that
was spinning out of control. Now he was looking for a way out without losing face.
Kennedy decided to respond to the first, poetic letter and ignored the second message. The
reply marked the turning point of the crisis.
How would a Clausewitz-inspired student of strategy make sense of this episode that,
according to then secretary of defence, Robert McNamara (1995), brought civilization to
the brink of annihilation? Rather than trying to distil a general model for future action from
the event, the strategist would: understand politics and war as two ends on a continuum
constructed around conflict of interests; investigate the discursive repertoire that strategy
provides to calculate conflicting interests, to make the conflict intelligible, and turn it into
an object for intervention; pay attention to the seemingly mundane and idiosyncratic, the
human, all too human, that turns out to be a decisive factor in the development of the crisis;
note how commerce, exchange and tit-for-tat guide conduct; analyse how possible futures
are evoked and mobilised to justify actions in the present; and finally, the strategist would
scrutinise how rational strategies of individual players lead to an overall (‘MAD’)
irrationality in which future peace is contingent on an all-out war in the present.
Rereading Clausewitz has some not insignificant implications for strategy, organization
theory and perhaps other disciplines. Strategy is not something someone ‘has’ or a practice
that someone is engaged in. With Clausewitz, strategy becomes an adjective that attaches
itself to heterogeneous things and people: a sudden downpour of rain, a rumour that
flattens the troop’s morale or a letter can become strategic objects that have a decisive
impact on the course of events. Clausewitz’ unwillingness to provide the reader with a
how-to-win-a-campaign doctrine derives from his practical and theoretical experience of
how minor events can have big, unforeseen impacts, and vice versa. The role of theorising
war is not to provide a neat narrative about or normative models explicating the future; as
Clausewitz suggested, this would be a futile exercise as the dissemination of the theory
would relate inversely to its truth. Strategy knowledge must not be a Ga
Cuban Missile Crisis can undeniably educate the mind of the future strategist, lead to self-
instruction and to borrow Aron’s phrase – teach an understanding of the task at hand
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without entertaining any absurd claim to communicate the secret of victory. But strategy
theory would make a bad companion on the next field of battle, for, as Clausewitz
suggests, strategy shares the complexities of war: ‘Everything is very simple in war, but
the simplest thing is difficult’. (61)
1. For a more detailed discussion about philosophers that go to b-school see Carter (2008).
2. Quotes from Clausewitz’s On War are taken from Colonel Graham’s 1873 English translation.
Upon comparison with the German original, some quotes have been modified.
3. This is the title of a book by Andrew Grove, former chairman and CEO of Intel.
4. He uses the old German word Ga
¨ngelband to describe what strategy ought not to be.
¨ngelband is an eighteenth-century expression for a leading string, which was put around
small children’s bodies to help them learn to walk.
Notes on contributor
Martin Kornberger received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Vienna in 2002, followed
by a decade at the University of Technology, Sydney where he worked last as associate professor for
design and management and research director of the Australian government’s Creative Industry
Innovation Centre. Currently he is professor for strategy and organization at Copenhagen Business
School, a distinguished visiting professor at Stockholm University Business School’s marketing
department and a research fellow at the WU Wien. He can be reached at For more
information please visit
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... yet the original ethos, especially in textbooks and empirical (i.e., econometric) research, is that of expecting choices and actions to result in outcomes. 3 In his essay on strategy's historical roots, Kornberger (2013Kornberger ( , p. 1061 summarizes the issues as follows: ...
... Nag et al., 2007). The distinction between more normative empirical strategic management research (i.e., the best strategy for different circumstances) and strategy process research (i.e., accounts of how strategy evolves in different organizations) is one way to characterize the field (Kornberger, 2013). The field has also been described as swinging from external to internal emphasis (Hoskisson et al., 1999): Porter's (1980) competitive strategy, for example, emphasized the decisive effect of firm external competitive forces on the performance of individual companies whereas the resource-based view, the dominant discourse of the 1990s, (Kraaijenbrink et al., 2010) focused on firm internal factors. ...
... However, it seems likely that the increasing research activity in strategic management has diffused into business history as concepts, frameworks, and research ideas. There is also a group of scholars that publishes in both fields (e.g., Jacobides, 2015;Kornberger, 2013;Langlois, 2003), revealing the numerous integrative mechanisms between them. Our results reflect a more general trend in the social sciences in which a dominant discourse generates mainstream discussions with high impact, leaving more limited space for emerging themes. ...
Full-text available
Scholars at the intersection of business history and strategic management have argued for the relevance and importance of historical methods in the study of strategic management of organizations. We flip this argument and ask about the role of strategic management concepts in the study of business history. We analyze volumes of Business History and Business History Review and a representative sample of business history books using a comprehensive set of keywords, each related to a specific sub-discourse in strategic management. Our results show that as scientific communities, business history and strategic management have become increasingly similar in their conceptual overlap. This study contributes further nuance to the understanding of intellectual change across scientific communities, and the role of business history in the rise of management and organizational history.
... In a similar vein, Kornberger (2013aKornberger ( , p. 1058, in his detailed exegesis of Clausewitz's On War, argues that, for Clausewitz, "a normative theory of strategy is impossible", rejecting-in the Prussian general's own words-"the horrid dreams of generalization." This stands in stark contrast with traditional planning approaches characterised by theoretical abstraction and a "normative compulsion to prescribe" (Ezzamel & Willmott, 2004, p. 45). ...
... Clausewitz saw normativity as impossible because the interplay of quantities (e.g. number of troops or ammunition) and qualities (e.g. the morale or motivation of the troops) in the battlefield influences the course of events in unexpected ways, eluding rational calculation (Kornberger, 2013a). In other words, when strategy "travels in the field" the blackbox of its making, re-making and unmaking can be opened, and its detours and bifurcations can be empirically explored. ...
... The resulting friction produced by the minutest detail, the smallest event, the least significant person constantly threatens to disintegrate the military machine. (Kornberger, 2013a(Kornberger, , p. 1064 From a Clausewitzian perspective, the waging of war is not the exclusive affair of human bodies-an insight which seems rather obvious today in the era of drone strikes, atomic bombs and chemical weapons. Indeed, "the body politic of war is produced and reproduced in the interaction among humans and artifacts" (Tryggestad, 2005, p. 32). ...
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Organisations are increasingly calling upon design as a strategic asset to generate innovation as part of a wider fascination with ‘design thinking’ in business. Recent scholarship has tended to emphasise design’s many contributions to business and society, playing a part in the growing recognition and expansion of design as an idea. However, scant attention has so far been given to the valorisation of design as a study phenomenon in its own right. How is the idea of design made valuable and strategic in organisations? This ethnographic study explores such question by attending to the practices of in-house designers who undertake efforts to ‘sell’ design and become strategic actors at a Swedish multi-national manufacturing company, Volvo Group. This research follows the tradition of other ANT-inspired studies that explore strategising and organisational change as the building and unbuilding of networks. Specifically, the study draws attention to the role of valuation in the politics of strategy practice by focusing on controversies where different conceptions of value were at play. This research conceptualises value(s) neither as a subjective preference nor as an intrinsic quality of things, but as the outcome of ongoing practices of valuation that shape reality. The study reveals how, despite careful planning involving the enrolment of consultants, staged demonstrations, and the circulation of a report, designers failed to get their strategic authority institutionalised through a top-down decision. In fact, their calculated efforts to valorise design(ing) worked to undermine their original aspiration. The study puts on display how designers deployed a valuation device that allowed them to quantitatively express and assess their contributions in controversial situations. Rather than accentuating their otherness, designers chose to adapt and imitate the dominant valuation regime of quantities and numbers, repressing the articulation of values related to notions of style and aesthetics, in an attempt to look rational and reliable. The study shows how designers weaved webs of ‘soft contracts’ and engaged in efforts to co- design solutions with non-designers, which produced valorising effects, changing some people’s perceptions around the idea of design(ing). Designers’ efforts to demonstrate worth were more effective when they invested themselves in fluidly coping with localised concerns and obstacles in the flow of everyday practice, than when they sought to impose themselves through a top-down decision. The study demonstrates that the valorisation of design(ing) does not primarily rest on the rhetorical abilities of designers but on the material arrangements and systems of measurement that they mobilise, as well as the practices of engagement and participation through which non-designers experience design(ing).
... One key question in both business history and strategic management is to understand why firms differ in their investment choices and subsequent performance (Kornberger, 2013). Consequently, firms' failure to make choices that result in long-term positive economic performance is a central research topic. ...
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We investigate how and why the Nokia Corporation failed to develop a successful strategic response to the threats of Apple and Google in the smartphone business and instead worsened its situation through several badly timed decisions. We identify key choices in technology and organisational design that jointly constituted sufficient cause for the abandonment of the mobile phone business. By focusing on choices instead of attributes (e.g. fear or hubris), we make progress in strategic failure research and simultaneously emphasise the strength of oral history methods and the philosophy of history as fruitful starting points for such an inquiry.
... Our concluding remarks highlight some of the shared concerns that could inspire future engagement between military and organization strategy scholars (Kornberger, 2013). First, history matters. ...
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Strategy and organization theory enjoy a reawakening interest in historical analysis. In this essay, we suggest that this engagement should include strategy’s linkage to the history of military strategy. We develop our argument through an exegesis of Carl von Clausewitz’ treatise On War. We claim that Clausewitz’ theorization of strategy advances the ongoing scholarly conversation on the practice of strategy in three specific ways. First, he defines a distinctive locus for the notion of strategy as the bridge between policy and tactics; in so doing, he addresses what has been criticized as strategy’s conceptual drift. Second, with Clausewitz, we can pose the question of strategy’s effectiveness in a critical, reflexive way. This opens up a way to answer the “so-what” question that has hampered strategy as practice research. Third, as an educator in military affairs of the Crown Prince, Clausewitz invites reflection on strategy’s pedagogy. Following Clausewitz, strategy may not want to concern itself with distilling the next practice from past history but immerse strategy students in great detail in history in order to develop their critical faculties.
... Sin embargo, Clausewitz reconocía que, en ocasiones, los Estados iban a la guerra sin objetivos claros o una estrategia para alcanzarlos; algunas veces, los estadistas y soldados se comprometían en guerras por objetivos mal definidos, o sin una política coherente que hacía que la estrategia se volviese ineficaz, porque carecía de dirección. Para Clausewitz, "la guerra era un fenómeno temporal en el que el futuro, el presente y el pasado chocaban como placas tectónicas" (Kornberger, 2013(Kornberger, , p. 1062. ...
... Specifically, missing is how and when to interrelate the two conceptions with cohesive integration (Andrews, 1980;Hambrick and Fredrickson, 2001;Hutzschenreuter and Kleindienst, 2006;Ketchen et al., 2008;Markides, 2004;Pettigrew, 1992;Pettigrew and Whipp, 1991;Porac et al., 2002;Whittington, 2003). Moreover, "much conventional analysis strategy has no understanding of the history of strategy" (Kornberger, 2013(Kornberger, , p. 1058 and "only a small amount of strategy research makes a significant theoretical contribution to knowledge" (Adcroft and Willis, 2008, p. 324). ...
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Purpose Early works in strategic management described strategy process and were quickly followed by a plethora of strategy content articles focusing on tools, theories, frameworks and models for use in strategizing. Subsequently, strategy research and pedagogy diverged along these lines and the two streams have not been satisfactorily reconciled. As the process incorporates content and content requires process, this paper seeks to answer the question; can some relational consistency and historical reconciliation be developed? The purpose of this paper is to propose a process/content interrelation and a generic model of strategizing. Design/methodology/approach The authors first identify the opportunity for this integration through the historical development of the two streams. The authors then review contemporary scholarly literature, strategic management textbooks and university syllabi to determine which elements of the strategy process and content are most frequently promulgated. Findings The authors discover a generally ubiquitous core of concepts, but great inconsistency in how they are emphasized, linked and/or applied. Beyond these core concepts, faculty syllabi included a wide range of more idiosyncratic content (appearing very infrequently – possibly related to instructor research or interest areas), such as blue ocean or game theory. The authors then propose a 2 × 2 matrix with axes of the level of analysis and stage of activity. The authors provide a populated matrix and discuss the implications of this matrix for future scholarship and teaching. Originality/value This paper begins a process of integrating the historical divide between strategy process and strategy content. It provides insights for classroom faculty, historians and practitioners.
The word strategy has “Greek” origin, which is a combination of two words, “stratos” and “aeiges”, which means art of employing battles in the battlefield. Strategic management was a term which was first used in the military and later found an implication in the business sector, as well as a relevance to the development sector, particularly for organizations in education, government, and health care. There are several benefits of strategic management. Many studies have reported that strategic management improves long-term financial performance of an organization. Strategic management imparts a self-image, desired public image, specific goals and objectives, long-term vision and mission, and consistency in decision-making to the organization. Overall coordination is improved, innovation is fostered, and efficiency is increased. This chapter will focus on the framework of strategic planning which is comprised of situational analysis, setting mission, vision, goals and objectives, strategy formulation, strategy implementation, strategic monitoring, evaluation and control, handling strategic contingencies and change management. Development of organizational culture, ethics, and values is a very important function of organizational operations. Culture is often an invisible thread that binds the organization together. Strategic development of organizational culture will be captured at the end of the chapter. The examples from healthcare sector have been used to elaborate the concepts.KeywordsStrategyHealthcare organizationStrategic thinkingStrategic planningStrategic momentum
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In this study, journalist, thinker and, politician Doğan Avcıoğlu's views has been reviewed reference to the concept of historic turn which is widely discussed in management and organization literature. Author offers a politicial, social and economic panoroma between Seljukian period and 1970s Turkey Republic. However the purpose of this article is to avoiding ceremonial empricism and understanding Turkey context. In this direction the findings were sorted out with respect to micro and macro analysis and interpreted with management and organization theories. At this point, the concept of “historic turn” has also been applied. This study has qualitative study and we used content analysis. Subsequently, the findings has classified and set titled as; (a) Ottoman Empire: industrial revolution and national economy, (b) Turkish Republic: businessmen, national economy, statism, industrialization and, (c) overview of management knowledge. In this study draw attention classes in the business world and lack of local entrepreneur in Ottoman period and institutionalization of statism and national economy and increase domestic and foreign investment. Finally, transferred management knowledge is both regulatory and change oriented.
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Strategy process and practice research has illuminated the internal dynamics of strategy work – at the cost of backgrounding processes and practices that relate to engagement with external actors. In this conceptual paper, we argue for an extension of this body of work by shifting the locus of research from internal practices and processes towards externally oriented practices of engagement. We do so by critically building on the military strategy literature and develop the concept of strategy as engagement. This concept suggests understanding the role of strategy as bridge between policy and tactics; the importance of grand strategy as the making of policy; and the need to focus attention on tactics as distributed and collective action. The aim of the paper is to rejuvenate strategy process and practice research through 1) extending its repertoire to practices of engagement and 2) broadening its epistemic foundation through a critical reading of military strategy.
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This chapter addresses the following double question: precisely how and when did the modern practice of strategy and its theorization emerge? What is its historical and thereby present link to accounting? Section 8.2 briefly considers the nature of 'disciplinary' power, and what it means to say that strategy, as a form of knowledge as well as of power, comes to be 'disciplinary'. Section 8.3 considers how these practices could have remade strategy into its modern form. Section 8.4 takes up the possible objection that strategy has a long history stretching back into the UK's military past and then was 'reinvented' after the Second World War. Section 8.5 addresses the question: why is it that modern strategy appears to have shown up, both in the business and military fields, in mid-19th-century America? Sections 8.6 and 8.7 ask how this revised history of strategy is relevant to modern theory in both military and business spheres. Finally, two major implications that have arisen from doing this history are discussed.
This book was originally published by Macmillan in 1936. It was voted the top Academic Book that Shaped Modern Britain by Academic Book Week (UK) in 2017, and in 2011 was placed on Time Magazine's top 100 non-fiction books written in English since 1923. Reissued with a fresh Introduction by the Nobel-prize winner Paul Krugman and a new Afterword by Keynes’ biographer Robert Skidelsky, this important work is made available to a new generation. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money transformed economics and changed the face of modern macroeconomics. Keynes’ argument is based on the idea that the level of employment is not determined by the price of labour, but by the spending of money. It gave way to an entirely new approach where employment, inflation and the market economy are concerned. Highly provocative at its time of publication, this book and Keynes’ theories continue to remain the subject of much support and praise, criticism and debate. Economists at any stage in their career will enjoy revisiting this treatise and observing the relevance of Keynes’ work in today’s contemporary climate.
Written to inform, challenge, and entertain, this book explains alternative ways of thinking about management and managing people in a way that is easy to understand, but also provocative and enjoyable. The book covers topics that are central to management, organizational behavior, or leadership courses–what managers do, motivation, communication, and ethics. Ann Cunliffe breathes fresh air into these topics, emphasizing the importance of relations when thinking about management and drawing on a range of disciplines such as philosophy and linguistics. A trusted and respected academic who has written widely on management, this book will stretch, surprise, and reward undergraduate, graduate and MBA students.