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The Enemy Inside the Gates: Anti-elite hostility and the political agency of the ‘everyday’ in Europe and the USA

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The starting point for this research project is the articulation of a populist critique of elite -driven processes of cosmopolitan liberalism and globalisation that emerged prominently in 2015-2016 and that resulted in a significant change to the status quo ante: the UK’s ‘Brexitdecision to leave the European Union, the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States and the significant rise of right-wing populism in Germany following Angela Merkel’s ‘Open Door’ refugee policy.

The 'Populist International': Rewriting Inside and Outside of World Politics

So far only little research has been undertaken into the political manifestations of friendship and enmity that link the various members of the ‘Populist International,’ from UKIP’s Nigel Farage featuring as prominent supporter in Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign to the alt-right movement in the Unites States echoing Germany’s PEGIDA in attacking the country’s elite media as ‘Lügenpresse’ (‘lying press’).

While the existing literature on right-wing populism has overwhelmingly focused on how these movements define the threat of the alien ‘Other,’ the project expands its analytical focus to also address how respective members of the ‘Populist International’ support each other in rhetoric and practise, unified by the goal of delegitimising and surpassing their common enemy: the neoliberal state and globalised cosmopolitanism.

Theoretical Background: Carl Schmitt and the Politics of Enmity

Carl Schmitt’s critique of Western liberalism as weakening the state and eroding its role of protector of the people appears as unifying force behind the new populism, in conjunction with Schmitt’s concept of the political as existential struggle against the enemy. The project therefore adapts Schmitt’s political theory towards a study of internal Othering, and examines how right-wing populists, anti-establishment movements and associated media derive political agency and authority from attacking elite representatives of the state as ‘enemies of the people’.

Carl SchmittE2E1

Research aims and questions

The project aims to explore how reflections and representations of Schmitt’s ideas inform contemporary populist dynamics and result in a redrawing of boundaries between ‘inside’ (amity) and ‘outside’ (enmity) in world politics. In pursuit of these objectives, the project formulates the following research questions:

  1. How do populist movements in the UK, Germany and the US perceive and narrate threats to national security and identity both internally and externally?
  2. To what extent do perceptions of friendship and enmity converge or diverge between populist movements?
  3. How are dominant representations of international security and national identity produced in government policy and mainstream media directly challenged by populist views and perceptions?

George Profile


Project lead: George Löfflmann is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow (2018-2021) and Research Fellow in International Security

The 'Enemy Inside the Gates' (EIG) project is supported through the Leverhulme Trust's Early Career Fellowship



g dot lofflmann at warwick dot ac dot uk