Foucault's Surveillance Theory and Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me": An Essay Coming Never to Neomarxisme
Thanks to the red Columbia portable turntable that everyone owned around 1999 after vinyl became a luxurious and conspicuous waste far more classy than listening to 1s and 0s from smaller silicon discs with higher fidelity, my apartment has been mysteriously treated to the repeated playing of Rockwell‘s “Somebody’s Watching Me.” (I am pretty sure we got the LP for cheap at the same Karuizawa record store where I found The Monkees’ Golden Story featuring Tanaami Keiichi’s art, although it’s one of those albums anybody on Earth could just have “around the house.”)
With such a pop gem on my mind, I could not resist the inclination to write a bogus pretentious essay on the theme of the Rockwell song and Michel Foucault‘s Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la prison — tying together the works under the grand metaphor that society operates much like a panopticon with good behavior and compliance as a result of constant possibilities of authoritative supervision. This was going to teach you people how to laugh out-loud. You see — it is hilarious to analyze a “low culture” item (like Rockwell) within a framework of “high culture” (like Foucault).
These guys are also giants in their own right: Imagine the boos, hisses, rescindment of invitations upon spouting out Veblen, Weber, or Schumpeter with a fast, slick crowd. But drop some hints at rockstar Foucault and you are golden for a lifetime. This guy put academics on the map in the same way Rockwell established that African-Americans could do pop music.
But I surveyed the Internet to make sure this grand Foucault-Rockwell idea had not been previously executed. Lo and behold, fright and discontent — someone already thought of this parallel and to make matters worse, the writer is also named Marx — a Professor of Sociology at some local technical school in Boston called M.I.T. (And I bet this guy wins extra points that his ancestors were actually named Marx instead of taking the name on accidentally at Castle Garden Immigration Depot because the young immigrant misunderstood the question, answering his first name “Max” with a heavy accent — and “Poznyak” sounded “too Polish” anyway.)
So, no Foucault-Rockwell essay for any of you. Thanks, Prof. Marx.
While we are still on the subject of Rockwell, before never ever thinking about him again for the rest of our adult lives, I want to point out that the seeds of his doom were planted in the track listing of his debut album. Song #3: a cover of “Taxman” by the Beatles. Universally speaking, “Taxman” is a terrible song for anyone to remake, especially if you are trying to escape the fact that you are a rich, spoiled son of the music mogul who runs the label releasing your first album. “Taxman” is the kind of song that makes “hip” Republicans and conservatives swoon and was only marginally cool because the Beatles were cultural heroes, who happened to make a lot of money, and 95% of that money was being taken by “the Man” which happened to be a strongly-Socialist UK government. Doing “Taxman” as a virgin artist in the middle of the Reagan Era is decidedly less adventurous.
The “coolest” thing I have ever heard about taxes is a quote from my great-grandfather (the aforementioned fake Marx) who quipped, “All you have to do is pay 20% of your income and the government doesn’t send in pogroms to burn your house down and rape your women?” He did not end that with “Whatta country!” but he would in the film remake.