Walter White: From «Apply Yourself» to «Say my Name». Aspects of Political Theory in «Breaking Bad»


  • Josette Baer



This text should be understood as an interdisciplinary inquiry into one of the most successful US TV series: Breaking Bad (BB). I use political theory analysis, plot analysis that one could understand as textual analysis of the story, and my interpretations of the series’ main characters. In the first chapter, I present a summary of the story of Walter White and how his decisions affect his family. In the second chapter, I analyse BB according to Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. What Hobbes meant with his famous saying that man is man’s wolf, thus a deadly reciprocal threat of all against all comes to life in Walter becoming a full-fledged criminal, murder and deception now the tools of his new chosen craft. Walter is breaking bad, ignoring societal norms and ethical values, pursuing relentlessly his plans of making money for his family, enjoying his new self as a powerful provider because that is what men do: they provide. The third chapter is dedicated to an analysis how Hannah Arendt’s definitions of power, strength, authority, violence and judgement can explain Walter’s change from Paulus to Saulus. In the conclusion, I shall present my thoughts about the series and answer the following research questions: first, why is the global public still so smitten with Walter White? Second, what can one learn from BB for our contemporary conditio humana in the 21st century? Third, is Walter White the master of his life, thus self-determined (Selbstbestimmung), or is he dominated by forces outside of his own free will (Fremdbestimmung)?


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Baer, J. (2021). Walter White: From «Apply Yourself» to «Say my Name». Aspects of Political Theory in «Breaking Bad». Conexus, 4, 101–130.