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Since 1925 UCLA has honored its most distinguished scholars by selecting them to deliver this special annual lecture. By honoring them in this way, members of the academic community have an opportunity to appreciate these scholars' achievements in a way they may not have otherwise had.


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100th Faculty Research Lecture

“A Single French Fry” The Supreme Court and the Depletion of Constitutional Law

Karen Orren
Professor, Department of Political Science

May 11, 2006


Karen Orren, professor of Political Science, is now at the pinnacle of a long and distinguished career in which she has made major contributions to research on American politics. She has an international reputation for her work on the development, structure and operation of the American polity. She has worked on a wide range of topics including social movements, business corporations, farmers, labor unions, and the implications of these for the operations of law and government. In each area she has opened new avenues for research, and her originality has been rewarded by major prizes.

Professor Orren's overall contribution shows how placing a political question in its broader historical setting, in the push and pull of institutions over time, reveals structural and dynamic properties not evident "or even concealed" in a static or conventional view. In her first book, Corporate Power and Social Change , she studied corporate investment in housing over a period of a century to illuminate the range of possible authority relations between government and business and account for the prevailing form. In her second book, Belated Feudalism , she overturned the proposition that American history is characterized by the "absence of feudalism," investigating the labor movement's prolonged confrontation with the ancient master-and-servant law as one episode within a reformulated analysis of the past and present of American liberal institutions. More recently, her research has been devoted to reconceptualizing constitutional government in terms of the changing "rights" of officeholders.

 Some twenty years ago, Professor Orren and a collaborator founded Studies in American Political Development , a learned journal that under her co-editorship has until now served as catalyst and resource for an entirely new subfield in political science, "APD," represented today on the faculty of major political science departments around the country. In The Search for American Political Development , Professor Orren and her co-author provide a guide to studying politics in historical perspective and a searching evaluation of the success of political scientists thus far.

Professor Orren is recognized as someone who has performed exceptional university service. Since coming to UCLA in 1969, she has served on the Executive Board of the College of Letters and Science, the Legislative Assembly of the Academic Senate, the Council on Academic Personnel, and Senate Committees on Rules and Jurisdiction, Privileges and Tenure, Charges, Planning and Budget, as well as the state wide Committee on Privilege and Tenure.

In awarding Professor Karen Orren the faculty research lectureship, UCLA is truly honoring one of its own.


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