In 1977, I published An Introduction to the Sociology of Rural Development. At the time the sociology of development was at a crossroads theoretically and one could not be sure in which direction analysis and debate would move. One important motive for writing the book was to encourage a more open discussion between scholars of differing theoretical persuasions and to argue the case for combining actor and historical-structural approaches. Since then many things have happened, including the explosion of postmodernist writings and the emergence of less doctrinaire ‘post-structuralist’ forms of political economy (now sometimes labelled ‘the new political economy’17) which have opened up space for the consideration of actor issues and perspectives. Nevertheless, these efforts are likely to abort unless certain key conceptual and methodological issues are squarely tackled, of which the issue of agency is central.