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Belated Feudalism
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  • Page extent: 252 pages
  • Size: 234 x 156 mm
  • Weight: 0.38 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 346.73/024 347.30624
  • Dewey version: 20
  • LC Classification: KF894 .O77 1991
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Master and servant--United States--History
    • Labor laws and legislation--United States--History
    • Labor movement--United States--History
    • Liberalism--United States--History

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521422543 | ISBN-10: 052142254X)

  • Also available in Hardback
  • Published January 1992

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

$29.99 (G)

Contrary to the idea that the United States was liberal from its inception, Orren argues that both capitalism and constitutionalism proceeded upon a remnant of ancient feudalism. This was the common law of master and servant, embedded in the judiciary, cutting off the fundamental area of labor governance from democratic politics. The fully legislative polity that defines the modern liberal state was brought on through the industrial actions of trade unions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and was established with the institutions of collective bargaining under the New Deal. The book represents a reinterpertation of American political development and of the role of the labor movement as a creator of liberalism, not a spoiler of socialism.


Preface; 1. Introduction: liberalism and labor in developmental perspective; 2. The transition to liberalism and the remnant of American labor; 3. Belated feudalism: the order of the workplace in late-nineteenth-century America; 4. The old order and collective action; 5. Masters, servants, and the new American state; 6. Conclusion: the state of liberalism; Index.

Prize Winner

the 1993 J. David Greenstone Prize of the American Political Science Association


"The author...provides a carefully wrought and provocative argument that opposes the central tenets of American 'exceptionalism.'" Harvard Law Review

"...a brilliant tour de force..." Staughton Lynd, The Journal of American History

"Belated Feudalism is a provocative and highly original work of critical legal history on class formation and political development. Its underlying lesson--no labor, no liberalism--simultaneously challenges the restraining myths of America's pristine past and alerts us to the possiblities of a more democratic future." Contemporary Sociology

"Orren provides a useful guide to the application of master-and-servant doctrine to the changing work environment and she raises challenging points about the role of labor in creating the undercarriage of the post-New Deal institutional order. These are significant contributions." Reviews in American History

"Belated Feudalism is a stunning reinterpretation of the American political order as a whole. Labor and law are avenues to a broad vista. Orren reconceptualizes the logic of American political development, the relation of public and private in American politics, and the place of labor history in American political history. On all of these dimensions, one cannot read this book without having one's views shaken up and permanently altered." Jeffrey K. Tulis, The University of Texas at Austin

"Orren's insight about the persistence of feudal relations in the workplace is a stunning way of accounting for the subservience that characterized employers' expectations and workers' drudgery." Wythe Holt, Labor History

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