The Errors Clausewitz Made About Culture in War (and How a Clausewitzian Approach Can Solve Them)



Arguments aimed at undermining Clausewitz’s theories as too “state-centric” have carried the false idea that he excluded war’s cultural aspects from his analysis. In reality, Clausewitz wrote many thoughts on how different peoples fight, as well as the societal factors that affect morale among the troops and the population. This paper argues that Clausewitz did not understate the role of culture at all, but actually overstated it, falling at times outright into stereotyping. Luckily, despite these faults in his writings, he nonetheless bequeathed a rational tool to frame our notion of culture’s role in war in his famed “Wondrous Trinity.” Improving our overall grasp of Clausewitz through the lens of dialectical reasoning facilitates the task of extracting a cultural theory of war from his magnus opus that can be useful especially in fighting insurgencies whose claims to power are built on cultural re-appropriation and anti-colonialism.


War theory Insurgency Cultural intelligence Military strategy 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Conference of Defence Associations InstituteRoyal Military College of CanadaKingstonCanada

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