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.
Recommended by Berto Jongman
ROBERT STEELE: I am going to take the trouble to read this book. At first glance I have to wonder if this distinguished individual has any idea about holistic analytics, true cost economics, and the value of clarity, diversity, integrity, and thus sustainability. The point is not to manipulate the environment, the point is to appraise, embrace, and thrive within the whole. There is plenty of wealth from the sun and within the Earth to sustain all peoples in peace and prosperity. Where we have gone wrong is in allowing corrupt frauds to claim elite status and loot the commonwealth for their own selfish interests. In the end, there are two strategies — the strategy of the elite, which is criminal, and the strategy of the public, which is — in the ideal — collective, enlightened, and in its fulfillment, the creation of heaven on Earth — God is Us.