Underground Empire

Underground Empire

How America Weaponized the World Economy


'Captivating… The stuff of thrillers' - the Financial Times

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.


  • 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

About the authors

Henry Farrell

Henry Farrell is the SNF Agora Professor at Johns Hopkins SAIS, 2019 winner of the Friedrich Schiedel Prize for Politics and Technology, and former Editor-in-Chief of The Monkey Cage at The Washington Post. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Farrell has written for publications such as The New York Times, The Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Boston Review, Aeon, New Scientist, and The Nation.
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Abraham Newman

Abraham L. Newman is a professor at the School of Foreign Service and Government Department at Georgetown University. He is a 2022-2023 Berlin Prize winner and his work has been published in leading outlets like The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, Nature, Science, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Harvard Business Review, and Politico.
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