Recent writing in social policy on the role of agency has made important assumptions about social administration in the post-war period. In particular it is suggested that interpretations of the causes of poverty, and the thinking of Richard Titmuss, were characterised by a ‘denial’ of agency and almost total emphasis on structural factors. The implications were that this left the Titmuss paradigm vulnerable to more individualistic interpretations in the 1980s. In this article we look more closely at Titmuss's work and thought in the three decades of the 1940s, the 1950s, and the 1960s, aiming to produce a fuller and more nuanced analysis. We argue that the distinctive position adopted by Titmuss was in large part his response to earlier and on-going debates about social pathology. What he was trying to do was to make others aware of the broader context in which behaviour had to be analysed. But Titmuss himself became constrained by the paradigm that he did more than anyone else to create. Thus debates about behaviour, structure, and poverty have been marked as much by continuity as by change.