Deep state, state within a state, secret government, invisible government, shadow government, permanent government, power behind the throne, and cryptocracy refer to argued concealed power structures in a country, which have substantial influence over policies and which are contrasted with the publicly visible government. These terms are generally similar but may have somewhat different meanings.
Such concealed structures may technically not be hidden, but they and their powerful influence may rarely be mentioned in the mass media, causing few people to be aware of their existence and influence.
In a narrow sense, the concealed structures can refer to entrenched unelected career civil servants acting to further their own interests (e.g., job security, enhanced power and authority, pursuit of ideological goals and objectives, and the general growth of their agency) and in opposition to the policies of elected officials, by obstructing, resisting, and subverting the policies and directives of elected officials. See also managerial state.
In wider senses, the concealed structures may include structures not officially part of the government, such as lobby groups, think thanks, big corporations (especially those dependent on public spending), organized crime, and even foreign countries with substantial influence.
The argued influence may be legal, such as in the form of legal lobbying, or illegal. In some cases, the official government is seen as puppets heavily influenced or outright controlled by other forces.
Such forces and influences are not necessarily seen as monolithic, but are often seen as consisting of many different and often competing groups.
The Cultural Marxist concept of "the long march through the institutions" can be seen as Cultural Marxists trying to infiltrate "deep state" institutions, in order to influence society long-term.
The "military–industrial complex" is an argued informal alliance between a country's military, intelligence agencies, and arms industry. It can be seen as having an interest in promoting claimed threats to national security, or even wars, in order to gain a high public spending for themselves.
In some countries, the military has much more extensive influence over the government (or may rule openly), and there may be more or less open threats of a military coup if the interests and views of the military should be threatened.
Intelligence agencies, domestic or foreign, may be argued to have a large influence. There are many examples of foreign intelligence agencies participating in coups or attempted coups, in order to replace a disliked government.
Certain argued globalist organizations are other mentioned examples. They form part of theories on a New World Order. Examples include the Bilderberg Group, Council on Foreign Relations, and Royal Institute of International Affairs.
Various special interest groups may have a somewhat narrow area of interest, but have a very high influence on government policies related this area. One argued ethnic example is Amerindians in the United States on Amerindian related policies. See Amerindians: The Invented Indian.