International Relations Theory in "Breaking Bad"

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Jesse Pinkman: Constructivist

Constructivism, bitch. Why is Jesse a constructivist? Unlike neo-realists and neo-liberals -- who agree that the basis of IR is the anarchic structure of the international system (though they disagree on whether international institutions, laws and norms can mitigate the anarchy) -- constructivists question the foundation of the realist-liberal debate. For constructivists, states and state systems are socialized into behavioral patterns as much as the people who lead them. While the contemporary world-system may be one where states attempt to maximize security, for constructivists this can be changed. Regime type, cultural norms and leadership choices may produce a very different world than the one in which we currently live. Magnets to destroy evidence, siphoning off methylamine from a train ... Jesse believes there are different ways to avoid typical obstacles in state politics than his peers, and that there might be a way to eliminate or minimize death and conflict in the meth trade. Jesse has believed, throughout the show, that he could do things differently as a meth lord -- his way. Unlike Walt, he wouldn't invade another state's turf to increase their profits and put his allies at risk. His anger at Gus Fring's use of children as dealers stemmed from his belief that there could be different rules in the drug business -- something a realist like Fring never accepted. Then, just as he and Walt had become the new hegemonic power in the meth business, Jesse walked away. Why? He couldn't deal with the death of an innocent, and in the end he believed $5 million was enough of a profit to live peacefully. Walt, the arch-neo-realist, had no intention of quitting now that he had the opportunity to expand his hegemony. The tragic scene last season in which Jesse asks Walt to accept the buyout of $5 million -- when Walt had only needed $737,000 way back in season 2 -- ends with Walt saying "you asked me whether I'm in the money business or the meth business. Neither. I'm in the empire business." Jesse had no need to become a hegemon, or to take his talents as a meth cook and set up an empire rivaling and balancing Walt's. He wanted to take his money, exit the business and convince Walt this was desirable and possible. This is akin to a constructivist view of world politics -- though it remains to be seen how closely Jesse hews to this in the final season. (Photo: AMC)

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