The Global Politics of Fifth Columns

IMG_5446The invocation of fifth columns in the political arena—whether contrived or based on real fears—has historically recurred periodically and is experiencing an upsurge in our era of democratic erosion and geopolitical uncertainty. Fifth columns accusations can have baleful effects on governance and trust, as they call into question the loyalty and belonging of the targeted populations. They can cause human rights abuses, political repression, and even ethnic cleansing. Enemies Within is the first book to systematically investigate the roots and implications of the politics of fifth columns. In this volume, a multidisciplinary group of leading scholars address several related questions: When are actors likely to employ fifth-column claims and against whom? What accounts for changes in fifth-column framing over time?  How do the claims and rhetoric of governments differ from those of societal groups? How do accusations against ethnically or ideologically defined groups differ? Finally, how do actors labeled as fifth columns respond? To answer these questions, the contributors apply a common theoretical framework and work within the tradition of qualitative social science to analyze cases from three continents, oftentimes challenging conventional wisdom. Enemies Within offers a unique perspective to better understand contemporary challenges including the rise of populism and authoritarianism, the return of chauvinistic nationalism, the weakening of democratic norms, and the persecution of ethnic or religious minorities and political dissidents.

Harris Mylonas and Scott Radnitz (eds). 2022. Enemies Within: The Global Politics of Fifth ColumnsOxford University Press.

With contributions by Samer Anabtawi, Efe Murat Balıkçıoğlu, András Bozóki, H. Zeynep Bulutgil, Volha Charnysh, Kathryn Ciancia, Robert Crews, Sam Erkiletian, Kristin E. Fabbe, Lillian Frost, Erin Jenne, Kendrick Kuo, and Péter Visnovitz.


“Why does politics in some countries at some times become dominated by fears of fifth columns? Based on case studies from across the globe and from different time periods, this fascinating volume uncovers the political, social and economic conditions that turn minority populations into internal enemies and makes clear that the “politics of fifth columns” is a frightening common occurrence in democratic and authoritarian regimes alike.” — Sheri Berman, Columbia University

“Why and when are citizens labelled traitors or enemies within? This groundbreaking new book finds that domestic minorities are typically targeted when they are not well integrated into historical narratives of national belonging and when fifth column claims can undermine domestic political rivals. Written by the best scholars in the field, this exciting book will undoubtedly serve as a touchstone volume for future research seeking to understand the politics of fifth columns.” — Maya Tudor, Oxford University

“This is a tightly integrated and focused work that sheds new light on the politics of ‘fifth columns.’ The chapters are written by some of the most outstanding scholars in comparative politics, international relations, and political sociology. Read together, they provide fascinating insights into the conditions under which domestic minorities are portrayed, most often wrongly, as allies of the forces of evil and what consequences they suffer. Sadly enough, this is a very timely topic.” — Andreas Wimmer, Columbia University

Enemies Within opens a new field of study. There are scant references to the bewildering phenomenon of fifth columns in the literature, but the contributors to this intriguing volume show the widespread use of ‘fifth column politics’ in many different historical and geographical contexts. They masterfully dissect the concept and provide impressive, rigorous, and very rich case studies.” — Ignacio Sánchez-Cuenca, author of The Historical Roots of Political Violence

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