Strategy: A History

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Overview

Selected as a Financial Times Best Book of 2013

In Strategy: A History, Sir Lawrence Freedman, one of the world's leading authorities on war and international politics, captures the vast history of strategic thinking, in a consistently engaging and insightful account of how strategy came to pervade every aspect of our lives.

The range of Freedman's narrative is extraordinary, moving from the surprisingly advanced strategy practiced in primate ...

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Overview

Selected as a Financial Times Best Book of 2013

In Strategy: A History, Sir Lawrence Freedman, one of the world's leading authorities on war and international politics, captures the vast history of strategic thinking, in a consistently engaging and insightful account of how strategy came to pervade every aspect of our lives.

The range of Freedman's narrative is extraordinary, moving from the surprisingly advanced strategy practiced in primate groups, to the opposing strategies of Achilles and Odysseus in The Iliad, the strategic advice of Sun Tzu and Machiavelli, the great military innovations of Baron Henri de Jomini and Carl von Clausewitz, the grounding of revolutionary strategy in class struggles by Marx, the insights into corporate strategy found in Peter Drucker and Alfred Sloan, and the contributions of the leading social scientists working on strategy today. The core issue at the heart of strategy, the author notes, is whether it is possible to manipulate and shape our environment rather than simply become the victim of forces beyond one's control. Time and again, Freedman demonstrates that the inherent unpredictability of this environment-subject to chance events, the efforts of opponents, the missteps of friends-provides strategy with its challenge and its drama. Armies or corporations or nations rarely move from one predictable state of affairs to another, but instead feel their way through a series of states, each one not quite what was anticipated, requiring a reappraisal of the original strategy, including its ultimate objective. Thus the picture of strategy that emerges in this book is one that is fluid and flexible, governed by the starting point, not the end point.

A brilliant overview of the most prominent strategic theories in history, from David's use of deception against Goliath, to the modern use of game theory in economics, this masterful volume sums up a lifetime of reflection on strategy.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 10/21/2013
Former defense adviser to Tony Blair and professor of war studies at King's College, London, Freedman outlines past and present strategies of force and mind. His encyclopedic review begins with von Clausewitz's ideas on military power, and moves into futurist Kahn's contributions on deterrence in thermonuclear warfare. But this tour de force is not solely or even primarily about war; on bottom-up strategies he includes thinkers such as Marx, Lenin, Mao Zedong, and Martin Luther King, Jr. He also provides evenhanded, reliable analyses of little-read strategists Gramsci and Alinsky, and doesn't neglect propaganda and advertising genius Edward Bernays or corporate management strategic pioneers Peter Drucker and Alfred Sloan. The book concludes with reflections on why strategy is limited by rational choice and chance. The author suggests that strategic thinking in military and business are very different. Unusually thoughtful and clearly written, Freedman's dense tome is a serious academic study in political theory, but it has crossover potential and will attract readers interested in military planning, strategic systems, and the nature of power. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"[Freedman's] books manage to delight the experts yet are still comprehensible to the general reader, a rare skill in this genre. On this occasion, he has produced what is arguably the best book ever written on strategy." —Washington Post

"Magisterial... wide-ranging erudition and densely packed argument." —The Economist

"This is a book of startling scope, erudition and, more than anything, wisdom." —Financial Times

"Comprehensive, vigorous survey of strategy and its evolution...A lucid text that raises questions while answering others—of great value to planners, whether of an advertising campaign or a military one." —Kirkus Reviews

"Sir Lawrence Freedman's 750-page magnum opus, Strategy: A History, is encyclopedic, although not alphabetical, a pleasure to dip into here and there...There are grand strategies set forth in several of the greater works covered by Freedman, but Strategy: A History holds the reader to the strategic level, a subset of grand strategy." —New Criterion

"Strategy: A History is easily the most ambitious book that I have read in many years... With a book of this scope anybody can find something to disagree with but nobody can come away from this book without feeling enriched and intellectually challenged. It will live on as a classic. " —Mark Stout, War on the Rocks

"Strategy: A History, is an ambitious and sprawling book by a British military historian who has written widely, and very well, about nuclear and cold war strategy, the Falklands War, and contemporary military affairs, among other subjects... With admirable candor, Freedman tells us that he received the contract for this book in (gulp!) 1994, and that he made a 'number of false starts' with the manuscript. Considering the daunting scope of the subject, this is entirely understandable. Considering the wisdom and analytical brilliance he brings to bear on that subject, it's been well worth the wait." —The Daily Beast

"Tour de force... Unusually thoughtful and clearly written, Freedman's dense tome is a serious academic study in political theory, but it has crossover potential and will attract readers interested in military planning, strategic systems, and the nature of power." —Publishers Weekly starred review

"A vast exploration of strategy... full of surprises, and marked by unsurpassed erudition. It also is witty and reminds us that he in the world who knows most about strategy may be the one who is the most unimpressed with it."—National Review

"An erudite, encyclopedic study that will surely become a standard reference in the discipline." —strategy + business


"A fascinating review of the tools available to all of us to create agile, informed and interesting decisions." —Sheridan Jobbins, the World Economic Forum blog

"Lawrence Freedman shows here why he is justly renowned as one of the world's leading thinkers about strategy, which he defines as the central art of getting more out of a situation than the starting balance of power would suggest." —Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Harvard University and author of The Future of Power

"A marvelous grand tour of the meaning, implications, and consequences of strategic thinking through the ages and in multiple contexts. Freedman is a master of the subject and unsurpassed in his ability to unravel the twists and turns of strategic complexities and paradoxes." —Robert Jervis, Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of International Politics, Columbia University

"This is a wonderful book—a comprehensive yet deeply considered summation of the very nature of strategy by the premier social scientist of the subject. Strategy: A History is lucid and dispassionate, sometimes rueful, often ironic, always informative." —Philip Bobbitt, author of The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History

"This substantial, comprehensive, hermeneutic work examines the various dimensions and history of "strategy," which Freedman defines as "the art of creating power"...this very ambitious exploration provides readers with a useful introduction to the field of strategic studies." —CHOICE

Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-01
Strategy, that term beloved of war and business, is far more than a mere plan. So observes Freedman (War Studies/King's Coll. London; A Choice of Enemies: America Confronts the Middle East, 2008, etc.) in this comprehensive, vigorous survey of strategy and its evolution. Strategy is a byproduct of conflict, or at least of situations "where interests collide and forms of resolution are required." Beyond that, the definitions are many: It seems to be about developing a series of plans that balance ends and means with the resources available to attain those ends. Schools of thought have developed around strategy, with the Periclean supposedly concerned with accomplishing decisive victories, while the Sun Tzu method is to avoid direct confrontation whenever possible. However, Freedman valuably notes that there are plenty of instances in which Chinese strategists have gone full frontal while Greek strategists have employed ruses and deceptions, which introduces the notion of situationality. That is to say, the best strategy, in business or at war, would seem to be the one that most closely responds to actual situations on the ground and one that, as one of the strategists whom he studies remarks, may not even be clearly formulated ahead of time. In closing a text that takes in various bits of wisdom and experience from the likes of Napoleon, Mao, Bayard Rustin and Michel Foucault, Freedman also observes that strategic efforts to win some goal are just part of the task at hand--for, having won, there's now the necessity to govern or to bring goods to new markets or to retain battled-for rights, etc. A lucid text that raises questions while answering others--of great value to planners, whether of an advertising campaign or a military one.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199325153
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 10/2/2013
  • Pages: 768
  • Sales rank: 51,692
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 2.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Lawrence Freedman has been Professor of War Studies at King's College London since 1982, and Vice-Principal since 2003. Elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1995 and awarded the CBE in 1996, he was appointed Official Historian of the Falklands Campaign in 1997. He was awarded the KCMG in 2003. In June 2009 he was appointed to serve as a member of the official inquiry into Britain and the 2003 Iraq War. Professor Freedman has written extensively on nuclear strategy and the cold war, as well as commentating regularly on contemporary security issues. His most recent book, A Choice of Enemies: America Confronts the Middle East, won the 2009 Lionel Gelber Prize and Duke of Westminster Medal for Military Literature.

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Table of Contents

DEDICATION

PREFACE

Part I ORIGINS
1 ORIGINS 1: EVOLUTION
2 ORIGINS 2: THE BIBLE
3 ORIGINS 3: THE GREEKS
4 SUN TZU AND MACHIAVELLI
5 SATAN'S STRATEGY

Part II STRATEGIES OF FORCE
6 THE NEW SCIENCE OF STRATEGY
7 CLAUSEWITZ
8 THE FALSE SCIENCE
9 ANNIHILATION OR EXHAUSTION
10 BRAIN AND BRAWN
11 THE INDIRECT APPROACH
12 NUCLEAR GAMES
13 THE RATIONALITY OF IRRATIONALITY
14 GUERRILLA WARFARE
15 OBSERVATION AND ORIENTATION
16 THE REVOLUTION IN MILITARY AFFAIRS
17 THE MYTH OF THE MASTER STRATEGIST

PART III STRATEGY FROM BELOW
18 MARX AND A STRATEGY FOR THE WORKING CLASS
19 HERZEN AND BAKUNIN
20 REVISIONISTS AND VANGUARDS
21 BUREAUCRATS, DEMOCRATS, and ELITES
22 FORMULAS, MYTHS, AND PROPAGANDA
23 THE POWER OF NONVIOLENCE
24 EXISTENTIAL STRATEGY
25 BLACK POWER AND WHITE ANGER
26 FRAMES, PARADIGMS, DISCOURSES, AND NARRATIVES
27 RACE, RELIGION, AND ELECTIONS

PART IV STRATEGY FROM ABOVE
28 THE RISE OF THE MANAGEMENT CLASS
29 THE BUSINESS OF BUSINESS
30 MANAGEMENT STRATEGY
31 BUSINESS AS WAR
32 THE RISE OF ECONOMICS
33 RED QUEENS AND BLUE OCEANS
34 THE SOCIOLOGICAL CHALLENGE
35 DELIBERATE OR EMERGENT

PART V theories of strategy
36 THE LIMITS OF RATIONAL CHOICE
37 BEYOND RATIONAL CHOICE
38 STORIES AND SCRIPTS
37 BEYOND RATIONAL CHOICE
38 STORIES AND SCRIPTS

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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  • Posted January 15, 2014

    Very interesting - highly recommended

    This is very extensive presentation of main areas of human forward thinking and activity to achieve the deliberated aims in different fields: war, economy, political, social etc. The subject matter concerns the humankind's history from preancient (Bible) time to contemporary one. Author gives not only the presentation and description but also critical analysis of problems, puts the questions and inspires to individual outlook of them. Beautiful and attractive mode of written text is the next valuable point of review. This book may be well recommended for all readers being interested in this area of human ideas.

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