Sun Tzu’s Art of War, compiled more than two thousand years ago, is a study of the behaviour of organizations in conflict:
Sun Tzu’s Art of War, or Sun-Tzu pìng-fa, was written in the Warring States Period (453-221B.C.) by a mysterious Chinese philosopher-warrior; the book has been studied and used for over two thousand years by warriors, military leaders and politicians, including Mao Zedong and Henry Kissinger.
Yet this aspect of this strategic manual is only one face, the most visible, and perhaps not the most profound, of this classic.
Conceived in a period troubled by never-ending civil wars, a period to which other Chinese classics such as the Tao Te Chìng (fundamental text for both philosophical and religious Taoism), I-Ching (how to live following the alternating cycles of nature), and Zhuangzi (collection of anecdotes and fables) also date, The Art of War is deeply permeated with the humanist principles of Taoism, the philosophical and spiritual tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (lit. ‘Way’, the source of everything that exists).
Just as the I-Ching has preserved certain philosophical ideas through the most varied socio-political changes due to its popularity as a book of oracles, so Sun Tzu’s manual has preserved from destruction the essence of practical Taoist philosophy thanks to its precise antithesis: the study of war.
In general, the Sun-Tzu ping-fa is thus a manual of strategy deeply permeated with the Taoist vision that raises many questions, such as:
The strength of the greatest classical Taoist texts is that all of these questions are relevant, all of them uncover an aspect of The Art of War, and countless others can arise.
Like the I-Ching, this text can and should be used as a projective test, and its instructions understood as a dialectical logic of profound wisdom, applicable to any aspect of internal and external reality that presents itself under the dynamic form of conflict.
The most valuable lesson that comes to anyone involved in conflict management is that
Military strategies and tactics are oriented to the deep sense of the conservation of resources and their proper use, of the clash conceived as the ultimate solution, when every alternative is impracticable.
A book that preserves the youth of timeless wisdom: the chapter on spying makes it clear that probably very little has been invented since then.
A curious characteristic of this book is that it is one of the most read and least publicized, and often found on the night table of managers, politicians, entrepreneurs; however, I rarely come across people who recommended it as naturally as they would have done a good novel…
Better others don’t know?
Wish to maintain a supposed advantage in managing a business or simply relationships?
Perhaps both reasons!
Just executives, politicians and entrepreneurs? Not at all!
Here is a set of people who can benefit greatly from Sun-Zu’s masterpiece:
In any case, this is a must-read book, one of the “timeless” ones.
Browsing in bookstores you’ll find many editions of this book; don’t buy just one, because the preface by Thomas Cleary (the editor and translator of this one) will guide you through the reading better ten others.
THE ART OF WAR
A classic collection of commentaries by eleven interpreters.
MASTERING THE ART OF WAR
Essays by two prominent statesmen-generals of the Han dynasty, Zhuge Liang and Liu Ji. The book develops the strategies of Sun Tzu’s classic into a complete handbook of organization and leadership; it draws on episodes from Chinese history to show in practical terms the proper use of Sun Tzu’s principles.
Part One – The Way of the General: Essays on Leadership and Crisis Management
Part Two – Lessons of War: Studies in Strategy
THE LOST ART OF WAR
Written by Sun Bin (descendant of Sun Tzu) more than one hundred years after Sun Tzu’s text. It is his classic of political and military strategy, faithful to the principles of The Art of War; it will be of great help because it concentrates on the practical application of Sun Tzu’s principles.
THE SILVER SPARROW ART OF WAR