On small war: Carl von Clausewitz and people's war

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Carl von Clausewitz is best known as the paradigmatic thinker of major interstate war. However, as this book demonstrates, Clausewitz developed his theory of war on the basis of his analysis of small war. He lived at a ‘watershed’ moment during which the early modern tradition of partisan warfare morphed into the modern practice of people’s war. Both his lectures on small war and his 1812 confession memorandum are evidence that Clausewitz was a keen analyst of both forms of small war. He integrated his insights in small war and people’s war in particular systematically into his magnum opus, On War. According to Clausewitz, the nationalization of war that had resulted from the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars had irrevocably introduced the option of defensive people’s war into the European strategic context. While people’s war always bore the risk of descending into political upheaval and revolutionary movements, it could also act as a custodian of the balance of power in early nineteenth-century Europe. The book reconstructs Clausewitz’s intellectual development against the backdrop of his contemporary political, philosophical, and cultural context. Understanding Clausewitz’s engagement with German Idealism and Romanticism is vital in order to reconstruct his thought on the role of reason and emotions in war, on military genius, and on the political foundations of war in general and people’s war in particular. However, a contextual interpretation of Clausewitz’s thought also forces us to reconsider to what extent this thought is applicable to strategic problems in the twenty-first century.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages192
ISBN (Electronic)9780191839566
ISBN (Print)9780198799047
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2018


  • Carl von Clausewitz
  • People's war
  • Small war
  • Balance of power
  • Partisan warfare


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