International competitiveness in post-Keynesian growth theory: controversies and empirical evidence

Laura Barbieri, Luciano Boggio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


A fundamental starting point for post-Keynesian theory concerning growth in open economies is succinctly expressed in the following statement by Kaldor: ‘[T]he main autonomous factor governing both the level and the rate of growth of effective demand of an industrial country…is the external demand for its exports: and the main factor governing the latter is international competitiveness, which in turn depends on the level of its industrial cost relatively to other industrial exporters’ (Kaldor, 1971, p. 7; italics added). Moreover, thanks to increasing returns in manufacturing, export expansion and international competitiveness would interact so as to create vicious or virtuous circles of cumulative causation. A few years later Kaldor, having found a positive correlation between the time changes of the main industrial countries’ relative manufacturing export shares and that of their relative unit costs—a correlation that became known as the ‘Kaldor paradox’— dismissed his original cumulative causation theory and adopted a version close to Harrod’s ‘foreign trade multiplier’. The purpose of this paper is to reaffirm the Kaldorian cumulative causation theory in its original version, by providing a firmer analytical basis and showing that, contrary to the ‘Kaldor paradox’, time changes in export performance must be ‘explained’ by levels rather than by changes in unit costs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-47
Number of pages23
JournalCambridge Journal of Economics
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • International competitiveness, Post-Keynesian growth theory, Kaldor paradox, replicator equation


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