Locked-in post-socialism: rolling path dependencies in Liberec’s district heating system

Stefan Bouzarovski, Luděk Sýkora, Roman Matoušek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper uses the experience of post-socialist district heating reforms to tell a broader story about the continued and shared challenges that central and eastern European cities face as they grapple with the legacies of the recent and more distant past. We argue that the restructuring of this infrastructural domain has been contingent upon geographically embedded trajectories stemming from previous historical periods, while leading to the creation of new socio-technical lock-ins. The paper thus develops the notion of “rolling path-dependencies” in order to explore how post-socialist developments both overcome and supplant previous trajectories of transformation. It focuses on the northern Czech town of Liberec – a place that is known for having some of the highest heating prices in the country – to elucidate how a socially, economically, and environmentally detrimental lock-in has come into existence as a result of ill-conceived policies of marketization, municipalization, and privatization. Using evidence from official documents and interviews with policy-makers, we demonstrate how the infrastructural legacies of post-socialism both persist and are being reproduced at the urban scale even within “advanced” reforming states like Czechia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalEurasian Geography and Economics
Early online date7 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Czech Republic
  • District heating
  • energy
  • infrastructure


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