The End of Certainty

Towards a New Internationalism

Stephen Chan

With a New Afterword


Discusses how we can establish a fresh kind of international relations and construct a common future for the planet. This book argues that international politics has failed because the certainties of singular traditions of philosophy fail to help us in understanding power shifts and struggles in an endlessly diverse world.
The End of Certainty is a magical realist book on world politics. Stephen Chan takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride through how we can establish a new kind of international relations and construct a common future for the planet. Chan argues that the certainties of singular traditions of philosophy have failed to help us understand power shifts and struggles in an endlessly diverse world.

Chan argues that fusing different strands of Western, Eastern, religious and philosophical thought, is far more likely to help us move forward amidst uncertainty. In doing so, he takes us on a journey from the battlefields of Eritrea to the Twin Towers, via the Book of Job, Clausewitz, Fanon and Wahabism.

You'll never think about international politics in quite the same way again.

Author Bio

Stephen Chan is Professor of International Relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London. He has lived and worked in many parts of the world and has been engaged with international relations both diplomatically and academically. However, he has also worked directly in many of the deprived areas of Africa, and has helped African efforts to represent the continent in the face of looming Chinese interest.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • 1. A Failed Species
  • 2. Fusion, Frenzy and Madness
  • 3. The New Brutalisms
  • 4. Mercy and the Modern World
  • 5. The Tao of International Relations
  • 6. What Should God Do About Evil?
  • 7. Buying Loyalty
  • 8. Writing Politics
  • 9. Transcendence and Power
  • 10. What is To Be Done?


'Against the kind of debate that features a clash of "certainties ... about the best form of coercion to apply in any international moral impasse", international-relations scholar Chan has written a beautifully digressive plea for pluralism. The book's wide-angle viewpoint takes in André Malraux's imagining of a Chinese assassin, the Finnish construction of a national myth, contemporary African novels, Sufism and Zoroastrianism, the archangel Gabriel distracted from his "cosmic satnav" by a beautiful woman, Hans Küng's parliament of the world's religions, and the videogame Assassin's Creed, read (rightly) as a critique of Dick Cheney.'
The Guardian

'A long and rather splendid dinner with Stephen Chan: a ten-course tasting menu from a three-star Michelin restaurant specialising in global cultural history ... I left the restaurant with a sound appreciation of the limits of my own knowledge, and a sense of how superficial are my pretensions to cosmopolitanism. So I'll be coming back for more.'
The Independent

'Fascinating and energetic ... the field of international relations is given an overdue shake-up by an author unusually conversant with a wide range of literature, as well as videogames and martial arts.'
The Guardian

'This is a gloriously ambitious book. No one has done anything like it. The great scholar Stephen Chan sought to write an intellectual essay which would read like a magical realist novel and succeeds. He wanted to speak about complex things with imagination, drawing upon literature, music, history, philosophy and psychoanalysis. He wanted to take us on a journey across continents so that we might challenge the political orthodoxies of our times, which insist with certainty that the values to be championed in a conflicted world are those of the West. The project has produced a book light in touch but displaying extraordinary erudition, which unveils the riches and illuminating perspectives of other cultures and which shows us that there are other ways of creating a better world. Forget Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington. Stephen Chan is the public intellectual with his finger on the global pulse.'
Baroness Helena Kennedy

'Stephen Chan was advised not to write this book. The reader would be advised to read it and even to read it again. It is a novel of true philosophy, it is philosophy through a novel, it is impressive and fascinating. It is about thought, commitment and love. The point is not to agree or not with Chan but to embark with him on his journey, from certainty to compassion, and to try, with humility and dignity, to find and to give some meaning to our common humanity. This important book is like a circle crossed by woven threads, it is a window to the world as much as a mirror to the self. Profound and refreshing.'
Tariq Ramadan

'A strikingly original disquisition on international politics, deploying all the cultural, aesthetic, and technological resources of our age to revisit the most important questions of human co-existence. Chan has had the courage to subvert standard scholarly approaches to show that the very framework within which academics operate is itself an impediment to the leap of imagination required to meet the demands of our sublimely chaotic world. The End of Certainty is a bracing riposte to the West's intellectual, political and cultural conceit and a most salutary reminder that it is, not the end of history, but merely a link in the long human struggle to make sense of the wonders (or the nightmares) that our ingenuity may fashion. Each epoch is hollowed by the folly of its (political, religious or technological) gurus so the best we can do is to keep striving with an open mind and, Chan might say, an open heart. The End of Certainty is a tough minded but elegantly written plea for a new way of thinking politically that is rooted in our common history.'
Patrick Chabal, King's College London


Publication Date: 10 June 2010
350 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback 2nd Edition: 9781848134027
eBook ePub 2nd Edition: 9781848136571
eBook PDF 2nd Edition: 9781848133051
eBook Kindle 2nd Edition: 9781780327808
Library Edition: 9781848133037

Previous Editions: Paperback 1st Edition: 9781848133044

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