Abstract In the development of the rural deprivation debate in the U.K. in the early 1970s, the cause of rural deprivation was largely attributed to the imbalance in the allocation of state resources between urban and rural areas. In subsequent campaigns to redress that situation, much emphasis was placed on identifying specific ‘rural’ as opposed to ‘urban’ explanations for the problems facing rural populations. Evidence presented in this paper, however, illustrates the essentially aspatial nature of the deprivation experience. From a detailed household survey in a range of rural environments in England, deprivation was found to result as much from the socio-economic inequalities within rural society as it does from any perceived processes of territorial injustice in the allocation of Central Government financial support to local authorities. In the light of such findings, the paper questions the advisability of the state's adherence to spatial policies in the pursuit of solutions to the problems of the deprived in rural areas.