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  • Published: 28 November 2023
  • ISBN: 9780241624517
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $65.00

Underground Empire

How America Weaponized the World Economy




An explosive new vision of geopolitics from two trail-blazing political scientists

Deep beneath our feet, vast and sprawling, lies one of the most sophisticated empires the world has ever known. At first glance, it might not look like much - it is made up of fibre optic cables and obscure payment systems. But according to prominent political scientists Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman, the United States has turned the most vital pathways of the world economy into tools of domination over foreign businesses and countries, whether they are rivals or allies, allowing it to maintain global supremacy.

Drawing on original reporting and ground-breaking research, Farrell and Newman explain how this underground empire has allowed the United States to eavesdrop on other countries and isolate its enemies. Now, efforts by countries such as China and Russia to untether themselves from this coercive US-led system are turning the global economy into a battle zone. Today's headlines about trade wars, sanctions, and controls on technology exports are merely tremors hinting at far greater seismic shifts beneath the surface, as we sleepwalk into a dangerous new struggle for empire.

Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how power is wielded today, Underground Empire weaves together tales of economic conflict, shadowy surveillance and covert infrastructure projects to explain how the world order has been brought to the brink of chaos - and how we might find a way back from the edge.

  • Published: 28 November 2023
  • ISBN: 9780241624517
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $65.00

Praise for Underground Empire

Farrell and Newman's book is like an MRI or CT scan of recent world history, giving us a new and startling image of the global body politic, as clear as an X-ray. Cognitive mapping takes on a new aspect with their analysis, as they shift from the technological to the historical, showing both how this new nervous system of world power came to be, and how it could be put to better use than it is now. Given the intertwined complexities of our very dangerous polycrisis, we need their insights

Kim Stanley Robinson, author of THE MINISTRY FOR THE FUTURE

The sharpest and most striking analysis I've seen in years of the state the world's in, cunningly disguised as a user-friendly business book

Francis Spufford, author of GOLDEN HILL

Underground Empire is an astonishing explanation of how power really works. From fiber optic cables to the financial system, Farrell and Newman show how the networks that knit us together are also powerful coercive tools, providing a subtle and revelatory account of how the United States learned to weaponize its dominance of the world order's plumbing. A riveting read, essential for understanding how economic and technological power is wielded today

Chris Miller, author of CHIP WAR

Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman paint a persuasively alarming picture of just how American power has become entrenched deep in the plumbing of the world economy. Underground Empire is a passionate plea for restraint and reform in the face of a world burdened by all kinds of geopolitical dangers

Helen Thompson

Underground Empire tells a riveting story about the deep forces that have shaped our present moment. The book is a portrait not of a single protagonist or event, but rather a system that shapes much of the world today: a web of dollars and data that has, half accidentally, given the United States a new kind of geopolitical control over both its enemies and allies. It is history written in its most powerful form: a view of the recent past that gives us a new lens to better discern our future

Steven Johnson, author of HOW WE GOT TO NOW

Captivating… The stuff of thrillers

The Financial Times

If you want to understand where the world economy has been and where it may be headed, you need to read this book

Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy, X (Twitter handle)

The publication of Underground Empire could not be more timely. Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman offer an important corrective to a dominant narrative in US foreign policy circles.

Emily Jones, the TLS

We live in a digital global economy, but who controls its wiring and plumbing? Underground Empire shows how American power travels along fibre-optic cables, server farms, internet and financial infrastructure, intellectual property, and technological expertise.

The Times of India

An important new book by Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman, two US academics. There are several reasons to read their book: it is accessible, it is engaging and it is refreshingly concise. But most of all, they get to the heart of how power really works in a globalized economy.

Neil Shearing, Chatham House

The international relations experts Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman recently published Underground Empire: How America Weaponized the World Economy, a revelatory book that describes how modern globalization — which creates far more complex forms of interdependence than traditional international trade — has put America at the heart of an international web of surveillance and control

Paul Krugman, the New York Times

The world economy, from finance to technology, runs on networks. Those at the center of the networks control – often subtly and invisibly – what happens within them. More often than not, it is the US that has had that privilege. Anyone who wants to understand how the world economy got to where it is today, and how it will probably evolve, should read this book

Dani Rodik, PS Read More Newsletter

Farrell and Newman write fluidly and grippingly, and not just by the standards of international relations theorists

Joshua Keating, The Washington Post

Revelatory… the underground empire deserves the same kind of sophisticated thinking once devoted to nuclear rivalries… by highlighting how the nature of global power has changed, the book makes an enormous contribution to the way analysts think about influence

Paul Krugman, Foreign Affairs