As we enter the 21st century, a dominant trend in development thinking makes it refer specifically to the practice of development agencies. However, to accept this as the main meaning of development would carry the dangers of losing the complexity and ambiguity of development, of underplaying the importance of vision and of historical process, and of limiting development to actions and policies aimed at reducing poverty in poor countries. It is important to challenge this restricted view of what development is. At the same time, the current prime importance of practice within the development field should be recognized and development practice should be taken more seriously from the point of view of theory building. Focused work on notions such as accountability, trusteeship and public action would help here, as would work on building up a tradition of critical practice analogous that in Organization Development. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.