Industrial societies are currently evolving along a fundamentally unsustainable trajectory, contributing to climate change, resource depletion and loss of biodiversity. A recent Deep Transitions framework (Schot and Kanger, 2018; Kanger and Schot, 2019) argues that this trajectory has been built up through the First Deep Transition: a 250-year co-evolution of multiple socio-technical systems.
However, to date the Deep Transitions framework has completely neglected the spatial dimension of this process. This makes it unable to explain (1) how socio-technical systems emerge in, gravitate towards, become linked in and disperse from certain locations; (2) how global constraints condition actors’ responses in specific locations and how these responses, in turn, reproduce or transform socio-technical systems; (3) how these processes accumulate into socio-material landscapes, posing locationally varying constraints to major transformative change. As a response this paper aims to develop a middle-range theory of the spatial dynamics of Deep Transitions. Synthesizing insights from a broad range of fields nine propositions are developed on the spatial patterns and mechanisms of long-term multi-system co-evolution. The resulting framework enables to explain the spatial genesis of the First Deep Transition and opens up a research agenda for studying the possibly emerging Second Deep Transition.