Breaking Bad and International Relations Theory

August 13, 2013

WOTR readers, if you’re already dreading the imminent end of Breaking Bad, the hit AMC series about meth dealings in Albuquerque, here’s a little something to ease the painOver at, political scientist Peter LaVenia has a slideshow highlighting how international relations theory explains Breaking Bad.  Indeed, as LaVenia, puts it, “the shadowy world of the Albuquerque meth scene operates as a parallel international order.”

Hank Schrader is the show’s liberal institutionalist, bringing a faith in rules to an otherwise anarchic world. There’s constructivist Jesse Pinkman, who believes there are different, better ways to get to the top of the business than the hard-nosed realists around him. Saul Goodman is a classic bandwagoner. LaVenia also points out that you can look at the show through a Marxist lens, insofar as the characters’ actions are driven almost entirely by a profit motive. He even includes a feminist critique, since the women on the show are all side characters, simply living in the world that men have created for them.

And of course, the show’s main character, regular-guy-turned-meth-dealer Walter White, is a Waltzian neo-realist, because he’ll do whatever it takes to maximize the security of himself and his family. LaVenia features a quote from Walter White that just about sums it up: “You asked me whether I’m in the money business or the meth business. Neither. I’m in the empire business.”

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