The Office of Economic Opportunity was established, under the leadership of Sargent Shriver, to fight President Johnson's War on Poverty as part of the Great Society program. Between 1964 and 1968, two intellectual communities vied for supremacy within that office. In the early years, a group of intellectual radicals drew inspiration from social psychology and gave their support to the controversial community action programs that drew criticism from the Senate, Congress, local governments, and Democratic Party insiders. Over time, a second community, built upon the values and insights associated with the Office of Research, Plans, Programs, Evaluation, brought the evaluation perspective of RAND to government spending and gradually began to dominate. This essay examines the internal and external pressures of the period and uses the insights of Randall Collins, Michael Farrell, and J. B. Morrell and G. L. Geison to explain why one intellectual community flourished while the other declined.

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