Clausewitz and Foucault: war and power

  • Roger Deacon School of Education, University of Natal
Keywords: Carl von Clausewitz's On War, influenced theorists, French philosopher and historian, Michel Foucault, Clausewitz's analysis of war, Foucault's reversal of Clausewitz


Carl von Clausewitz's On War has influenced theorists across a wide range of disciplines, and one such was the late French philosopher and historian, Michel Foucault. This paper considers what at first sight appears to be Foucault's reversal of Clausewitz, but which oncloser examination can be seen to be an accordance with many striking parallels. It isargued that Foucault's reconceptualisation of modem, or disciplinary, relations of power corresponds remarkably closely with Clausewitz's analysis of war, to the extent that both power and war can be understood in terms of multiple, unstable, interactive and variable relations of force, governed by rationality but often resistant to analysis, the significance of which lies primarily in their fluctuating and reciprocal outcomes and consequences, and not least their moral and psychological components and effects.
How to Cite
Deacon, R. (2012). Clausewitz and Foucault: war and power. Scientia Militaria - South African Journal of Military Studies, 31(1).