The concept of a planning doctrine can be used to analyse spatial planning systems, making reference to the ways in which their performance is influenced by patterns of thought. In the Netherlands the performance of the planning system has been attributed to a strong national consensus on a set of interrelated and enduring notions on spatial configurations and development strategies and how they should be handled: in plain terms, a ‘spatial planning doctrine’. The spatial planning context has changed so much in the past fifteen years that many critics are questioning whether Dutch spatial planning can continue to live up to its internationally acclaimed reputation. We analyse the workings of the planning doctrine and conclude that it is still having an effect on planning practice. However, if it does not evolve more dynamically, it might be wrenched out of joint by the constantly changing planning context. We furthermore reflect on the potential role of a planning doctrine in the analysis of planning systems.