Strategy, a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked. How a battle is fought is a matter of tactics: the terms and conditions that it is fought on and whether it should be fought at all is a matter of strategy, which is part of the four levels of warfare: political goals or grand strategy, strategy, operations, and tactics. Building on the work of many thinkers on the subject, one can define strategy as "a comprehensive way to try to pursue political ends, including the threat or actual use of force, in a dialectic of wills – there have to be at least two sides to a conflict. These sides interact, and thus a Strategy will rarely be successful if it shows no adaptability."[1]


The word strategy derives from the Greek "στρατηγία" (strategia), "office of general, command, generalship",[2] in turn from "στρατηγός" (strategos), "leader or commander of an army, general",[3] a compound of "στρατός" (stratos), "army, host" + "ἀγός" (agos), "leader, chief",[4] in turn from "ἄγω" (ago), "to lead".[5] We have no evidence of it being used in a modern sense in Ancient Greek, but find it in Byzantine documents from the 6th century onwards, and most notably in the work attributed to Emperor Leo VI the Wise of Byzantium. The word was first used in German as "Strategie" in a translation of Leo's work in 1777, shortly thereafter in French as "stratégie" by Leo's French translator, and was first attested in English 1810.[1]

Strategies in game theoryEdit

In game theory, a strategy refers to one of the options that a player can choose. That is, every player in a non-cooperative game has a set of possible strategies, and must choose one of the choices.

A strategy must specify what action will happen in each contingent state of the game—e.g. if the opponent does A, then take action B, whereas if the opponent does C, take action D.

Strategies in game theory may be random (mixed) or deterministic (pure). That is, in some games, players choose mixed strategies. Pure strategies can be thought of as a special case of mixed strategies, in which only probabilities 0 or 1 are assigned to actions.

Noted texts on strategyEdit

Classic texts such as Chanakya's Arthashastra written in the 3rd century BC, Sun Tzu's The Art of War, written in China 2,500 years ago, the political strategy of Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince, written in 1513, or Carl von Clausewitz's On War, published in 1832, as with the Japanese classic The book of five rings by Miyamoto Mushashi written in 1645, are still well known, and highly influential. Even though the term was not used before the end of the 18th century, and subsequently shifted its meaning (see definitions, above), there were several insightful writers on strategy between Machiavelli and Clausewitz, like Matthew Sutcliffe, Bernardino de Mendoza, Santa Cruz de Marcenado (Álvaro de Navia Osorio y Vigil, marqués de Santa Cruz de Marcenado), Guibert (Jacques Antoine Hippolyte, Comte de Guibert), and August Otto Rühle von Lilienstern. In the 20th century, the subject of strategic management has been particularly applied to organizations, most typically to business firms and corporations. The nature of historic texts differs greatly from area to area, and given the nature of strategy itself, there are some potential parallels between various forms of strategy—noting, for example, the popularity of The Art of War as a business book. Each domain generally has its own foundational texts, as well as more recent contributions to new applications of strategy. Some of these are:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Beatrice Heuser, The Evolution of Strategy: Thinking War from Antiquity to the Present (Cambridge University Press, 2010), ISBN 978-0-521-19968-1, p.27f.
  2. ^ στρατηγία, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  3. ^ στρατηγός, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  4. ^ ἀγός, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  5. ^ ἄγω, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
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