After World War II, only a few developing countries were able to catch up to the real GDP per capita levels prevailing in developed countries. These successful countries in almost all cases were in Asia and did not follow the free-market doctrine in the tradition of the Washington Consensus. There must be theoretical explanations as to why underdevelopment is reproduced and most countries in the world do not catch up. This essay reviews different economic approaches that attempt to explain the lack of convergence. The aim is to explain why neither trade based on comparative advantages, nor on economies of scale, nor in global value chains, can cure the lack of sufficient productivity development. The essay will also cover special features like negative terms-of-trade effects, abundance of scarce resources, and premature de-industrialisation. Also distorted financial systems, high inequality, and restrictions on macroeconomic demand management are briefly discussed. As most developing countries suffer from several of these factors, this approach can explain why development is only possible with the support of comprehensive regulatory government policies and a change in global governance.
In neoclassical thinking, insufficient development is considered the result of a lack of resources, and an inefficient allocation. Deregulated markets have to guarantee a better allocation of resources as well as a net resource inflow to augment the domestic physical capital stock. From a Schumpeterian-Keynesian perspective, it is not the lack of physical resources and optimal allocation which prevent development. It is first and foremost the lack of a sufficient credit-investment mechanism which leads to the perpetuation of underdevelopment. It is shown here that the Schumpeterian-Keynesian perspective gives a much more plausible interpretation of the Chinese development than the neoclassical perspective. It is also shown under which regulations and conditions a credit-investment process in developing countries is possible.
In Marx's explanation of functional income distribution, wages are given as a basket of goods needed for the reproduction needs of the working class. Profits are then the remaining part of income creation. Marx's explanation of functional income distribution has several theoretical and practical shortcomings. The Keynesian paradigm in the traditional works of Keynes and Kalecki provides alternative explanations of functional income distribution. Here the profit rate is given by processes in the financial market and the degree of financialisation. Also the degree of monopoly influences functional income distribution. The Keynesian and Kaleckian approach allows a plausible interpretation of the changes in functional income distribution during recent decades.