Abram Trosky

Abram Trosky – Boston University, International Relations

Recipient of Boston University’s highest academic scholarship, Abram Trosky has served as Presidential Teaching Fellow for most of the department’s introductory courses and been honored to have twice solo taught Intro to Political Theory. In 2008, he was recognized with the annual Teaching Fellow award for International Relations and has since assisted and taught upper-level courses in each of these sub-fields. That same year, Abram passed qualifying examinations and assumed a Junior Fellowship at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, Austria.
Abram’s academic interests are similarly interdisciplinary, as is his dissertation research, which bestrides international law and diplomacy, moral philosophy, cognitive developmental psychology, and the public opinion research of peace and conflict studies. For the past three years, he has been a frequent contributor to the Group on International Perspective on Governmental Aggression and Peace (GIPGAP) in conferences and in print, and as guest lecturer in BU’s Psychology Department.
Though his aspiration is to eventually continue teaching, Abram is pleased to have accepted the Arthur Clarke Research Fellowship in Global Citizenship at the Consortium for Peace Studies at the University of Calgary for Fall 2011.

Of the People, by the People, and for other Peoples? The Expansion of National to International Politics in Howard Zinn’s Philosophy of History

Howard Zinn viewed history agonistically as a struggle between governments jealous of power and individuals desirous of rights.  Like Marx and many anarchists, he imagined a future in which the state might wither away; the people would be victorious, and government, redundant, so long as they remained conscientious participants.

However, this philosophy of historical change seems to apply more to those with an institutional head-start.  What did Zinn have to say about the obligations of those who benefitted from such a head-start to those without such advantage—about duties beyond borders?  Is the nation too flawed an instrument to be capable of moral action?

Notwithstanding his popularization of the misdeeds of liberal internationalism and other imperialisms in his teaching, speaking, activism, and interviews, Zinn’s writings champion the liberal democratic principle of egalitarian individualism as basic to human rights.  Torn between revolution and reform, his positions on the use of violence against the state in achieving social justice, and by the state in realizing global justice are, perhaps willfully, ambiguous.  His stances on issues like just war, intervention, and the notion of duty generally, are therefore more nuanced than many of his Marxist, anarchist, or pacifist admirers appreciate.

I argue that the same humanism that animated Zinn’s value-laden telling of history rules out absolute pacifism and benignly individualistic gradualism as philosophies of history.  Citing similarities with Foucault’s late turn to Kant, I argue that Zinn’s faith in individual conscience and history’s long arc of justice entails a duty to critique, agitate, and sometimes, fight against the state to compel it to fight for the rights of others.