Here, I examine the shift from equal opportunity to the new social contract, showing how the politics and policies created under the guise of equal opportunity during the 1960s helped to pave the way for a new politics of the underclass two decades later. I argue that equal opportunity, as it took form during the 1960s, could not be sustained as a political justification for social and economic policy interventions for two reasons: first, as a guide to political action, equal opportunity underemphasized the need to build enduring crossracial coalitions; and second, as a rationale for policy, equal opportunity encouraged a focus on individual mobility which diverted attention away from broader structural issues related to the organization of the economy.