Describing the statement as having a 'repeatable materiality,' then, shows the difference between statement-analysis and traditional ways of analyzing signs. Traditional analysis depends either on abstract linguistic analysis or on physical materiality. The statement breaks these analytic boundaries, allowing us to pay attention to a set of signs as it functions in the world of discourse. The statement's material conditions are always important, because they locate it in the field of discourse. Yet the statement can, depending on the level of our analysis, remain identical across various material manifestations (as in the different copies of a book). Likewise, what the statement 'means' is also important, for obvious reasons. Yet we don't understand the statement to 'mean' something solely in the sense of referring to something or being 'meant' by someone. If that were the case, any statement would be repeatable anywhere. Instead, the statement is partially tied down to its material conditions (how tied down it is depends on the particular associated field of each statement).

We might understand Foucault's four statement-defining factors in terms of the two poles (materiality and abstracted meaning) between which the statement functions. The first factor is that the statement does not depend on a 'correlate' (an external referent or proposed state of affairs). Although this position might seem to liberate the statement from a dependence on the physical world (in part, it does), this factor is actually designed to keep the statement separate from any analysis of signs as abstract and repeatable. If we refuse to allow the statement any propositional content (any reference to something 'out there'), we cease to allow it the kind of meaning that can be reproduced anywhere. Aligned with this removal of the statement from the realm of abstract repeatability is the third factor, which states that the statement is defined by its 'associated field.' This means that every statement is fixed to some degree in a non-repeatable position, relative to a complex network of statements, 'an enunciative network that extends beyond it.'

Foucault's second and fourth characteristics of the statement, on the other hand, serve to distance the statement from the absolute, non-repeatable fixity that defines any set of signs considered as a one-time- only physical emission. The exclusion of the thinking, intending subject from the analysis of the statement means that we no longer have to take a set of signs as the uniquely intended, non-repeatable creation of a specific, real individual. The fourth factor is clearer in this purpose, and this is where Foucault actually invents the term 'repeatable materiality.' Though the statement is not bound to abstracted meaning by its propositional content, neither is it rigorously bound to the material on which it is printed or the sound in which it is enunciated. Although the enunciative function defines the associated field that identifies a given statement, enunciation as such (the physical emission of the signs) does not fully describe the statement. An enunciation is never identical with its repetition. A statement can be, depending on its associated field. The analysis of the statement doesn't make other kinds of analyses (grammatical, strictly material, etc.) false. It is simply a new method for approaching sets of signs, and this method is designed to yield a specific level of conclusions and ultimately a specific kind of history. Throughout the Archeology, Foucault is seeking to formalize the method he's used already in multiple historical works. It's not unfair to Foucault's own articulation of his project in this book to say that he is trying, retroactively, to describe the rules of a method which, when he actually used it, was only an unformulated approach, a methodological inclination. As he puts it is the next chapter, Foucault is trying to elucidate a mode of 'description that I have used without being aware of its constraints and resources.' This consideration may help to put the remarkably oblique and intricate description of the statement in some perspective.

Popular pages: The Archaeology of Knowledge