Michel Serres, ‘Energy, Information’, pp.94-97, in:
Serres, M., Schehr, L.R., 1982. The parasite. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
If all the merit, honor, and glory are usually given to the populace of the anthill, sometimes they are given to the grasshoppers. All that is necessary is to have enough of them in the system for us to be happy. As usual, good and evil are divided, and the corresponding marker is sometimes given to the worker, sometimes to the singer.
By making the system more flexible, it is made more complex, more dynamic; it is saved, given life, multiplied; now it is as large as a set of anthills. Things are further along; knowledge is greater too. But the constraints, even in their flexibility, are even more ferocious.
The ant had understood that the producer can seize power only if he takes the place of the parasite as well. Thus the motor, an expansive phenomenon, filled space and was the founding fact of property.
The grasshopper counter attacks. At a distance from the anthill, it sings, filling space. The ant cannot get rid of this cry: here is a parasite that it cannot eliminate. The parasite has to find a phenomenon against which the producer can do nothing. A noise is not chased out but covered.
Music culture – that is to say, the culture of communication has just wiped out the industrial revolution, the revolution of productions. Little packets of energy chase out bigger ones. One parasite chases out another. One power chases out another.
The parasite gets power less because he occupies the center than because he fills the environment. The grasshopper occupies space, the media, the environment, the milieu-his property because it is the owner who emits an extensive phenomenon in this place.
Power, a while back, occupied the center. For it to come from this center, for it to be effective to its edges, for it to be carried to the periphery, a necessary condition is that there be no obstacle and that the space be homogeneous around its action. In short, the space must be deparasited.
This is the oldest trick in the book, the most common in history, the most reproduced in our institutions, cultures, and sciences. Cut, center, purify.
You will find it in everything from agriculture to systems analysis.
Maybe it is the fundamental model or structure of producers’ cultures. How can we advance from the center? Leave the border constant for a while and then move it forward. Power at the center organizes, from the center on out, a closed space that expands, an order that advances, a world in expansion. Production or moving forward. We are all Indo-Europeans.
For that, in fact, is what production is: this growth-the advance of closure in a Rousseauesque garden, the progressive conquest of space, the absorption of the desert, bit by bit. Informing the desert, changing disorder into information, transforming the face of the globe. That is what production is for Indo Europeans.
The ant moves through space and decelerates time: festina lente. All of a sudden, the grasshopper fills the surrounding area. The grasshopper doesn’t need time to fill a space. No, the grasshopper is not a producer, it has a very different power.
The center loses its place, its function, and its importance. Where are you going? Every where. All spaces bathe in its power. The parasite is everywhere. Its voice expands, filling the space, wherever he is and wherever he goes. Voice, wind, sound and noise.
Grasshopper and ant, the closed-off garden of the workers about to embark on imperialism, and suddenly, the space is occupied by the explosion of voices, the blare of horns.
We have changed all that. Henceforth, expansion is enough. You can do without the center. Circumstantial emitters are enough. The world empire of IBM, tomorrow, the absolute empire of relation. The end of substance.
Substantialism was and is the refusal of voices and wind. From now on, only relations, only waves.
Thus, we must look for what is expanding. Noises, odors, and waves. And maybe Reason as well. Reason, ratio, the Hellenic logos, the voice once more. Reason is spread by the voice. By calculation and measurement that presuppose long chains of reasons. The old Cartesian chains were slow and hyperbolically deparasited. Today the chains move at the speed of light and the parasites have them in their grasp.
The return of the grasshoppers will never stop, the return of the excluded, the return of the repressed, of the poets of the tale-tellers, of the parasites at the dinner table of the Chateau de Vaux. The first fable is archaic, but is an exception. The rest of the fables announce our world.