This paper assesses the relationship between state and society in interwar rural England, focusing on the hitherto neglected role of the Rural Community Councils. The rise of statutory social provision in the early twentieth century created new challenges and opportunities for voluntarism, and the rural community movement was in part a response to this. The paper examines the early development of the movement, arguing that a crucial role was played by a close-knit group of academics and local government officials. While largely eschewing party politics, they shared a commitment to citizenship, democracy and the promotion of rural culture. Many of them had been close associates of Sir Horace Plunkett. The Rural Community Councils engaged in a wide range of activities, including advisory work, adult education, local history, village hall provision, support for rural industries and an ambivalent engagement with parish councils. The paper concludes with an assessment of the achievements of the rural community movement, arguing that it was constrained by its financial dependence on voluntary contributions.