Clausewitz and Freemasonry

Don’s Diary

We all seem to like putting things, including people, into categories. No doubt anthropologists and sociologists will have an explanation. At first it was probably the edible and the inedible, the safe and the dangerous situations, the breeders and the others.

In Freemasonry we have our categories too: the initiated and the uninitiated, our classification by Degrees and of course Grand Lodge Officers and the rest of us. One might then ask how we might classify Grand Lodge Officers in some Constitutions. I suppose that they would like to think by rank is the criteria but this does not necessarily indicate a performance capability. Furthermore, it could be misleading. How often do you hear of a Regimental Sergeant Major, Drill Sergeant or the logistic finance officer and the like becoming Army Commanders?

Management science owes a lot of its basic theory to the military command theory largely because up to the Industrial Revolution the only organisations of any size were the military, the Catholic Church and the government. It was to Clausewitz (1780-1831), the 19th Century Prussian military strategist, that the classification of officers into four basic types was attributed: the intelligent and lazy, the intelligent and industrious, the stupid and lazy and the stupid and industrious. It is argued that the lazy and the intelligent made the best commanders as the lazy man will find the easiest way of doing something and he will be intelligent enough to make it work. The theory has it the intelligent and industrious make the best staff officers and they will get down to all the detail and apply themselves with energy but as commanders they will get bogged down with detail and loose the big picture. The lazy and the stupid are usually employed in non-combatant roles where their action (or non-action) will not cost lives, and in routine regimental (ritual?) duties. The stupid and the industrious are the most dangerous as they work hard and screw everything up. Some bosses will impressed with their industry and not be smart enough to be a wake up to their intellectual shortcomings and even promote them. It will then take a war or a tough competitive environment to find them out and there will be causalities on the way. They could bring an organisation down.

In some Constitutions and Lodges you could be excused for thinking that ritual capability is the principal prerequisite for higher office in some very closed, self perpetuating systems where the real objective seems to be obscured in busy pursuit of a myriad of relatively minor tasks. It is often hard to imagine where a senior management capability comes from. What would Clausewitz have said about all this?

Fraternal best wishes to all


Editor's Note

The the now familiar term, "the fog of war", is also ascribed to Clausewitz.

"The great uncertainty of all data in war is a peculiar difficulty, because all action must, to a certain extent, be planned in a mere twilight, which in addition not infrequently—like the effect of a fog or moonshine—gives to things exaggerated dimensions and unnatural appearance."

See here