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American Exception

Empire and the Deep State

Aaron Good


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American Exception seeks to explain the breakdown of US democracy. In particular, how we can understand the uncanny continuity of American foreign policy, the breakdown of the rule of law, and the extreme concentration of wealth and power into an overworld of the corporate rich. To trace the evolution of the American state, the author takes a deep politics approach, shedding light on those political practices that are typically repressed in “mainstream” discourse.
In its long history before World War II, the US had a deep political system—a system of governance in which decision-making and enforcement were carried out within—and outside of—public institutions. It was a system that always included some degree of secretive collusion and law-breaking. After World War II, US elites decided to pursue global dominance over the international capitalist system. Setting aside the liberal rhetoric, this project was pursued in a manner that was by and large imperialistic rather than progressive. To administer this covert empire, US elites created a massive national security state characterized by unprecedented levels of secrecy and lawlessness. The “Global Communist Conspiracy” provided a pretext for exceptionism—an endless “exception” to the rule of law.
What gradually emerged after World War II was a tripartite state system of governance. The open democratic state and the authoritarian security state were both increasingly dominated by an American deep state. The term deep state was badly misappropriated during the Trump era. In the simplest sense, it herein refers to all those institutions that collectively exercise undemocratic power over state and society. To trace how we arrived at this point, American Exception explores various deep state institutions and history-making interventions. Key institutions involve the relationships between the overworld of the corporate rich, the underworld of organized crime, and the national security actors that mediate between them. History-making interventions include the toppling of foreign governments, the launching of aggressive wars, and the political assassinations of the 1960s. The book concludes by assessing the prospects for a revival of US democracy.

Praise For American Exception: Empire and the Deep State

“A gifted student of history, Aaron Good digs deep into its underbrush of confusion to bring out lucid insights into the American Empire—and the reasons for its behavior. This work again reminds us of the pernicious impact of intelligence and security forces and their role in undermining our integrity as a country.”
—Oliver Stone, author and Academy Award-winning director, producer, and screenwriter
“In The Untold History of the United States, Oliver Stone and I countered the dangerous myths of unbridled American rectitude and imperious exceptionalism. In American Exception, Aaron Good takes this a big step further, producing something we might call untold social science, a work that brilliantly illuminates the deep political forces that have animated the American empire throughout its volatile, troubled, and often violent history.”
—Peter Kuznick, Professor of History and Director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University

Skyhorse, 9781510769137, 312pp.

Publication Date: April 5, 2022

About the Author

Aaron Good has a PhD in Political Science from Temple University. His dissertation, “American Exception: Hegemony and the Tripartite State,” examined the state, elite criminality, and US hegemony. It was an expansion of a previously published article, “American Exception: Hegemony and the Dissimulation of the State.” Prior to completing his doctorate, he worked on the 2008 Obama campaign in Missouri. Born and raised in Indiana, he has since lived and worked in Taiwan and Shanghai. He currently resides with his wife and son in the greater Philadelphia area where he has been a history and social science instructor.