Oorlog en politiek in het denken van Carl von Clausewitz

  • Johan Verstraeten


Clausewitz is not as some misinterpretations suggest a philosopher of total war. An analysis of his hermeneutical key presented in the first chapter of the first book of 'On War' makes it clear that there is a crucial distinction between his pure abstract concept of war - the notion of absolute war - and his theory of real war, where the irrationality of
violence and the force of the military will, are subjected to political rationality.  According to Clausewitz politicians carry the ultimate responsibility in determining the ends of war, and this can only be done after a thorough appraisal of national and international realities.

One of the consequences of his position is that the military and political levels are not, as A. Rapoport suggests, interchangeable but in a subordinate position. Military leaders should always follow the logic of politics, politicians however should not neglect the grammar of war.  Despite some texts that might suggest the contrary, Clausewitz held a clear option for a defensive policy. Value judgments are left to philosophers.

How to Cite:

Verstraeten, J., (1985) “Oorlog en politiek in het denken van Carl von Clausewitz”, Res Publica 27(1), p.33-57. doi:

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Published on
30 Mar 1985
Peer Reviewed