Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Clausewitz, Carl Philipp Gottlieb von
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Prussian officer and military theorist whose major work Vom Kriege/On War (posthumously published in 1832) revolutionized military, and later business, strategists. His famous theory of conflict is that war is an extension of political policy by other means and therefore not an end in itself. Clausewitz's ideas have been enthusiastically adopted by modern business strategists. In Clausewitz's terms, business is a civilized version of war in which companies, not nations, compete against each other.

Clausewitz believed that war was about beating the opposition through the concentration of force against decisive points (total war) using all available resources. The ultimate aim (in business or war) was to improve performance by having better intelligence than a rival and relying on sound analysis of that information to take decisive action.

Clausewitz was born in Burg, near Magdeburg, and entered the Prussian Army as a young cadet in 1792. Having served in the Rhine campaign (1793–94) against the French Revolutionary Army, he attended the Berlin Military Academy in 1801. There he studied military science and philosophy under General von Scharnhorst, graduating in 1804 and becoming aide-de-camp to Prince Auguste of Prussia.

In 1806, during the Napoleonic Wars, he was wounded and captured at Jena. On his release in 1808 he returned to Prussia and was appointed as Scharnhorst's assistant (working on army reform), before becoming a professor and military instructor to the Crown Prince in 1810. He subsequently resigned his commission to serve with the Russian Army against Napoleon (1812–14) and helped to negotiate the Convention of Tauroggen, which prepared the way for the Prussian alliance with Russia and the UK against France. He re-entered the Prussian Army in 1815, serving as chief of staff during the Waterloo campaign. Three years later he was appointed a general, and until 1830 was a director of the General War School in Berlin where he undertook his research.

In 1830 he was assigned as observer to the Prussian Army at Breslau on the Polish frontier, where he died of cholera a year later.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

Related Articles


Full text Article CLAUSEWITZ, CARL VON 1780-1831
Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era, 1760-1850

German philosopher The only true philosopher of warfare the West has produced, Carl von Clausewitz's reputation rests primarily on one massive,...

Full text Article Clausewitz, Carl Philipp Gottfried von (1780–1831)
500 Great Military Leaders

Prussian general, regarded by many as history's most influential military theorist. Born in Burg near Magdeburg, Prussia, on June 1, 1780, Carl Phil

See more from Credo