Review of International Studies

The analysis of protracted social conflict: a tribute to Edward Azar

Oliver  Ramsbotham 

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The aim of this article is to draw attention to the work of a conflict analyst whose theory of ‘protracted social conflict’ – developed in a sustained series of publications over a twenty-year period from the early-1970s – has been neglected in mainstream international relations, strategic studies and security studies circles. The first section offers a conceptual context for assessing the originality and significance of Azar's approach. The second section outlines his theory of protracted social conflict. The third section evaluates his theory in the light of developments in conflict analysis in the 13 years since his death. The conclusion is that Azar's work does not merit such neglect and that it still offers useful pointers for an understanding of the sources of major armed conflict in the turbulent and contested arena of post-Cold War politics.