Discussion Questions on Martin Hollis, "Problems of Structure and Action"

1. What is the point of the example of the collapse of the Soviet Union and of Soviet regimes in Eastern Europe?

2. What are the main contrasts that Hollis draws between Marx's and Mill's views of social phenomena? Do they agree on anything important?

3. Hollis distinguishes between what he calls "top down" accounts of actions and "bottom up" accounts of social structure. What is "bottom" and what is "top"? What's the difference? Are Marx's and Mill's views bottom up or top down?

4. Hollis draws the following table on page 19:

Explanation Understanding

Holism Systems 'Games'

Individualism Agents Actors

a. What is the contrast between "explanation" and "understanding?

b. What is the contrast between holism and individualism?

c. How would you describe the contents of each of the four cells and the contrasts between those cells? How are actors different from agents and games different from systems?

5. What is naturalism? Where does it belong in the table?

6. What is determinism and where does it belong in the table?