Over the past decade and a half, advances in our understanding of the pathogenesis of immune-mediated diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have translated directly into benefit for patients. Much of this benefit has arisen through the introduction of targeted biological therapies. At the same time, technological advances have made it possible to define, at the cellular and molecular levels, the key pathways that influence the initiation and persistence of chronic inflammatory autoimmune reactions. As our understanding grows, it is likely that this knowledge will be translated into a second generation of biological therapies that are tailor-made for the patient. This review summarizes current perspectives on RA disease pathogenesis, with particular emphasis on what RA T cells look like, what they are likely to see, and how they contribute to persistence of the chronic inflammatory response.