Bruce Andrews

"if the social is made coherent by discursive arrangements..." (1990)
If society holds itself together largely through coercions at the level of class, then you can think about that pretty much in terms of negative power, and you can challenge that by putting forward, by proposing, already-existing packagings of meaning which have been excluded, have been kept down, have been beaten up with weaponry owned by the state or by capital; but if the social is held together by the productivity of meaning, if the social is made coherent by discursive arrangements or positivities, then recognizing that opens up some avenues for writing, opens up some ways of getting that implicated in the writing [i.e. "already-existing packagings of meaning" are now questionable, as they are themselves an aspect of "positive power," of the "productivity of meaning"]. So I think some of those things are floating around in the background of a phrase like that ["positive power"]. In some ways it's too easy, because it [writing strategies formulated from a notion of "positive power"] glamorizes the role of operating with discourse, but you see that glamorizing of discourse in all the arts in so-called postmodernism . . . that lead away from abstraction as an interesting possibility in most art forms. So what I'm grappling with is my refusal to abandon the project of exploring the sign, signification, and not just saying, OK, let's just deal with discourse, let's just ironically, appropriatively, assemble existing social materials and bring them together in interesting, clashing ways and do appropriation art, do that genre of work. I'm still interested in the basic foundational structure of meaning, in its material form in the sign, but I want to push that further, not just abandon it and move to the level of social commentary the way a lot of people are interested in doing now, but to try to retain the interest in sound and sight and materiality at the level of the letter, syllable, paragraph, syntactical micro-unit, but still get into the thing, get into the work, some of this other material.

from a 1990 interview, entitled "North by Northwest Interview," in Paradise & Method (Northwestern UP 1996)