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Underground Empire: How America Weaponized the World Economy

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Abraham Newman, Professor in the Foreign Service and Government Departments, Georgetown University

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A deeply researched investigation that reveals how the United States is like a spider at the heart of an international web of surveillance and control, which it weaves in the form of globe-spanning networks such as fiber optic cables and obscure payment systems.

America’s security state first started to weaponize these channels after 9/11, when they seemed like necessities to combat terrorism—but now they’re a matter of course. Multinational companies like AT&T and Citicorp build hubs, which they use to make money, but which the government can also deploy as choke points. Today’s headlines about trade wars, sanctions, and technology disputes are merely tremors hinting at far greater seismic shifts beneath the surface.

Slowly but surely, Washington 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 the U.S. to maintain global supremacy. In the process, we have sleepwalked into a new struggle for empire. Using true stories, field-defining findings, and original reporting, Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman show how the most ordinary aspects of the post–Cold War economy have become realms of subterfuge and coercion, and what we must do to ensure that this new arms race doesn’t spiral out of control.



Order Underground Empire: How America Weaponized the World Economy from Henry Holt and Company



Abraham Newman received his BA in International Relations from Stanford University and his PhD in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a professor in the School of Foreign Service and Government Department at Georgetown University. His research focuses on the ways in which economic interdependence and globalization have transformed international politics. He is the author with Henry Farrell of Underground Empire: How America Weaponized the World Economy (Holt/Penguin 2023); Of Privacy and Power: The Transatlantic Struggle over Freedom and Security (Princeton University Press 2019), which is the winner of the 2019 Chicago-Kent College of Law / Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize, the 2020 International Studies Association ICOMM Best Book Award, and one of Foreign Affairs’ Best Books of 2019, with Elliot Posner of Voluntary Disruptions: International Soft Law, Finance, and Power (Oxford University Press: 2018), which won an Honorable Mention from the American Political Science Association’s International Collaboration Section Best Book Award 2018 and an Honorable Mention from the International Studies Association’s International Law Section Best Book Award 2019, Protectors of Privacy: Regulating Personal Data in the Global Economy (Cornell University Press: 2008) and co-editor of How Revolutionary was the Digital Revolution: National Responses, Market Transitions, and Global Technologies (Stanford University Press: 2006). His work has appeared in a range of journals including Comparative Political Studies, International Organization, International Security, Nature, Science, and World Politics.



Leslie Johns is a professor of political science and law at UCLA. She is also Associate Director of the Burkle Center for International Relations. Her research focuses on international law, organizations, and political economy. In 2022, Cambridge University Press published her newest book, Politics and International Law: Making, Breaking, and Upholding Global Rules. You can access related news stories on the book's Twitter account: @PoliticsIntlLaw. Her work appears in the American Political Science Review, International Organization, Journal of Conflict Resolution and the Journal of Politics. Her first book–Strengthening International Courts: The Hidden Costs of Legalization–was published in 2015 by the University of Michigan Press. She received the Michael Wallerstein Award for political economy in 2017. She is a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a former research fellow at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton University (2012-2013 and 2021-2022).