Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Pol­itics Khalil Habib spoke on the dangers of empire last Thursday.
Kalli Dal­rymple | Col­legian

On Oct. 15, Hillsdale’s Mossey Library hosted Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Pol­itics Khalil Habib in its newest installment of the Our Faculty’s Ongoing Research lecture series. 

Habib spoke on the theme of liberty and empire, and the dif­fering views that three pro­lific political thinkers — Machi­avelli, Hobbes, and Mon­tesquieu — each had on these important themes. Habib is cur­rently working on a book about the topic, which he hopes to publish within the next year.

“The simple question that this book raises and tries to answer is whether or not liberty, however you define it, requires empire, or whether or not empire destroys liberty,” Habib said.

Habib then briefly explained how the three dif­ferent thinkers answered this question, using the Roman Empire as a basis for the dis­cussion. In exploring how each thinker treats the subject of liberty and empire, Habib came to con­clu­sions of his own.

“Empire has con­se­quences, and those con­se­quences his­tor­i­cally have been quite bad,” Habib said. “It does lead to degen­eracy, to luxury, to a loss of a sense of unity and purpose. If you think that security is bought by extending one’s sphere, you have to pay for it.”

Habib’s thorough exam­i­nation of the topic of empire was inspired by his own per­sonal expe­ri­ences. He said he and his family immi­grated from Lebanon to the United States when he was very young. The peace and pros­perity enjoyed by Amer­icans fas­ci­nated him, as it con­trasted the con­stant con­flict and civil unrest he wit­nessed in his native country. Since then, he has been cap­ti­vated by the themes of tyranny, con­flict, and liberty.

“I’ve never found a topic to write on that was moti­vated by pure aca­demic interest,” Habib said. “I’ve always been driven to books or thinkers because of some political question that I gen­uinely have.”

Van Andel Graduate School of States­manship student Brian Friemuth ’20 attended the lecture and said he appre­ciated Habib’s insights.

“As someone who studies both pol­itics and jiu­jitsu with Pro­fessor Habib, I think he’s one of the best instructors I’ve had at Hillsdale,” Friemuth said. “I find it fas­ci­nating how Habib’s per­sonal expe­rience with tyran­nical regimes informs his under­standing of pol­itics and his reading of lit­er­ature.”

Habib was invited to speak at the ongoing research series by Tech­nical Ser­vices Librarian Aaron Kilgore. Mossey librarians take turns inviting dif­ferent pro­fessors to speak, alter­nating between science, social sci­ences, and human­ities each semester. Recently, the library hosted Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Spanish Katia Sherman and Assistant Pro­fessor of Physics Timothy Dolch. A human­ities pro­fessor will lecture next semester.

“We follow our faculty’s pub­li­ca­tions, whether books or articles, and get an idea of what new and inter­esting areas they’ve been exploring,” Kilgore said. “At that point, we try to ask faculty who haven’t spoken before if they would be inter­ested in sharing the direction of their current research with campus.”

Kilgore said he invited Habib to speak because of his work cov­ering writings and themes that Kilgore himself is also inter­ested in.

“I’ve always enjoyed studying the unbroken con­nec­tions of per­manent things passed on through history, and it’s great to hear how other people engage with those lasting threads in the con­texts of pol­itics and culture,” Kilgore said. “Dr. Habib’s tracking of the rela­tionship between republics and empires, and the pos­sible impli­ca­tions thereof, asks some of those quin­tes­sential Hillsdale ques­tions that inform important premises of human nature.”