Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2007


Jacques Attali, in his critically acclaimed book, Noise: The Political Economy of Music, cites one of Leibniz’s little known but “extraordinary” texts, “Drôle de pensée touchant nouvelle sorte de représentation,” in which the philosopher describes the “Palace of Marvels.” The Palace of Marvels is Leibniz’s idealization of a perfect political organization, which is built in such a way that the master of the house is able to hear and see everything that is being said and done in the premises without himself being perceived by his subjects. Leibniz’s vision of disciplinary society not only predates Bentham’s or Foucault’s subsequent versions of surveillance mechanism, the Panopticon, but it also conceptualizes a more eff ective and absolute form of power through eavesdropping, censorship, and recording, as well as surveillance through visual means. Listening in on, ordering, transmitting, and recording noise are at the heart of the modern State. The State, Attali warns, is slowly but steadily turning into “a gigantic, monopolizing noise emitter, and at the same time, a generalized eavesdropping device” (1985, 7). As a result, Attali argues, music today is “all too often only a disguise for the monologue of power”


Copyright © 2007 by Michigan State University.

This Article originally appeared in CR: The New Centennial Review Vol. 7, Iss. 1, 2007, pages 107-138.

Printed with permission. All rights reserved.

DOI: 10.1353/ncr.2007.0032