Tracing Ideational Change and Continuity in Concepts and Labels of War and Warfare in the North-Atlantic Area Since the End of the Cold War

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: War Studies


The end of the Cold War has precipitated a shift in the Anglo-American field of Strategic Studies: it lifted the field from the superpower competition, allowing it to (re)discover wars other than (nuclear) great power wars as an object of inquiry. This has changed the ways practitioners think about war and scholars conduct research on war, and triggered a debate on the changing character and nature of war, which continues until today. Many concepts that had guided the study of war and strategy during the Cold War seem to have become irrelevant, so new concepts had to be created to capture the character of post-Cold War armed conflicts. This has caused a true proliferation of concepts of war and strategy that led some commentators speak of a 'strategic concepts industry' and complain about buzzwords, fads and fashions in the field of Strategic Studies. Indeed, the field is characterised by waves of concepts that are intensively used for some time, and then get marginalised by another fashionable concept. 'Hybrid war' and 'cyber war' are the latest of these fashion; earlier examples include 'new wars', 'asymmetric war/fare' and 'counterinsurgency'.
The aim of my research is to understand how post-Cold War concepts of war become fashionable and unfashionable. 'Fashionability', for me, is not only about the number of people who use it, but also about the process through which these concepts are applied to ever-more case studies and thereby stripped of their meaning. Through process tracing periods of rise to fashionability and decline or marginalization, I want to understand the causes and mechanisms underlying this phenomenon. By tracing the rise and fall of concepts, the degree of change and continuity between them, and the broader (often implicit) assumptions they are based upon, I also aim to identify broader paradigms and patterns within which the field of Strategic Studies generates understandings about war.


10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2104368 Studentship ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 30/03/2021 Chiara Libiseller