Carl von Clausewitz and his Philosophy of War: The Evolution of a Reputation, 1831-2021

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Abstract

This article is concerned with the evolution of the reputation of the Prussian soldier and philosopher of war, Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831). It examines developments in debates about the reception, and relevance, of Clausewitz's work for strategic thought in both the historical and contemporary contexts. This article takes note of many of the misperceptions and misinterpretations directed at Clausewitz's work since his death. It argues that much of the criticism directed at Clausewitz is rooted in a visceral dislike of past proponents of Clausewitz for their aggressive and militaristic policies. An appreciation of this history is nevertheless useful for facilitating accurate interpretations of Clausewitz's work. Finally, the article argues that the notion of Clausewitz as advocate of militarism and aggressive war has been largely discredited. Indeed, in today's Federal Republic of Germany, the reformers masterminding the Wars of Liberation against Napoleon, of whom Clausewitz was one, and the resistance involved in the bomb plot of 20 July 1944, have now come to represent a useable historical tradition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)773-805
Number of pages33
JournalHistory
Volume105
Issue number368
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Clausewitz
  • Strategy
  • History of War
  • Prussia
  • Germany

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