Department of Politics and International Relations
University of Oxford
Manor Road Building
In the 1990s a series of high-profile books in English argued that Clausewitz’s On War had ceased to be a helpful guide to war today. They included: John Keegan, A history of warfare (1993); Martin van Creveld, The transformation of war (1991); and Mary Kaldor, New and Old Wars (1999). Keegan argued that war is more a matter of culture than politics; van Creveld and Kaldor that future wars are more likely to be waged by non-state actors.
Defenders of Clausewitz have emphasised that his work constitutes a continuous dialectic, embracing many areas of war, but presenting no easy solutions. It is tempting to conclude that On War would never have been finished, even if Clausewitz had survived his bout of cholera of 1831. They further suggest that his critics have focused on one proposition to the exclusion of its counter, and, above all, have confused what is real with what Clausewitz sees as normative. Yet defenders of On War then tend to restate what they take to be eternal truths - they are too ready to tell us why Clausewitz is still relevant, but not how.
The conference, and its resulting volume, will focus on the application and realisation of Clausewitz today. The first session will lay the conceptual groundwork. Session two will deal with the dominance in the Anglo-American tradition of the translation by Michael Howard and Peter Paret, and the effects this has had on interpretations of Clausewitz since 1976. Session three will focus on books I and VIII, the sections of On War which are regarded to be most nearly finished. Session four will concentrate on the intervening books. All these sessions will focus on debates inherent within Clausewitz himself. Sessions 5-13 will concentrate on the application of Clausewitz today, particularly the current (and topical) issues that define the character of contemporary armed conflict.
This conference is sponsored by the CCW Programme.
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