The economic theories reviewed in the previous chapter saw economies and economic change as being driven by great general changes in the conditions in which the economy operated. Individuals were broadly at the mercy of those grand economic forces, having very little if any choice in the economic courses they followed. As a consequence it was difficult to explain the differences between economic systems. The interplay of inevitable economic laws and similar circumstances should produce similar results, whether at the same period or over time, but clearly the reality was, and is, very different. Economic systems and economic responses are clearly not the same but widely diverse, and that diversity clearly cannot be explained within the framework of general laws. This failure of traditional economic interpretation has led to a refocusing on the individual units such as families or communities which make up the economy and on the ways in which, and the frameworks within which, they take the crucial economic decisions which go to make up the wider patterns of the economy and its operations. This has major implications for the ways in which historians see economic change, and in particular how economic change, or lack of change, are generated.
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