The 2000s have brought a renewed debate on strategies of ‘developmentalism’ in emerging market economies, especially in Latin America. We consider new concepts of developmentalism to be strategies in which the state deliberately pushes the process of development, in terms of structural change, and aims at income redistribution. In our paper, we seek to systematize this debate, comparing the concepts of new developmentalism and social developmentalism. We argue that of particular relevance for this discussion are the policy space constraints for emerging market economies imposed by international monetary and financial asymmetries. We conclude that the latter of the two approaches does not consider appropriately the policy constraints related to these asymmetries, which reduce the space for the implementation of developmentalist policies, while the former sees redistribution as a mere result of export-led industrialization.