Gramsci and Mailing Lists
I read Gramsci's essay 'On Education' a little while ago. The ideas in the following quotation may be relevant to the question of the organisation, role etc. of the marxism-list and other email-lists:
"A type of deliberative body which seeks to incorporate the technical expertise necessary for it to operate realistically has been described elsewhere, in an account of what happens on the editorial boards of some reviews, when these function at the same time both as editorial committees and as cultural groups. The group criticises as a body, and thus helps to define the tasks of the individual editors, whose activity is organised according to a plan and a division of labour which are rationally arranged in advance. By means of collective discussion and criticism (made up of suggestions, advice, comments on method, and criticism which is constructive and aimed at mutual education) in which each individual functions as a specialist in his own field and helps to complete the expertise of the collectivity, the average level of the individual editors is in fact successfully raised so that it reaches the altitude or capacity of the most highly-skilled -- thus not merely ensuring an ever more select and organic collaboration for the review, but also creating the conditions for the emergence of a homogeneous group of intellectuals, trained to produce a regular and methodical 'writing' activity (not only in terms of occasional publications or short articles, but also of organic, synthetic studies).
"Undoubtedly, in this kind of collective activity, each task produces new capacities and possibilities of work, since it creates ever more organic conditions of work: files, bibliographical digests, a library of basic specialised works, etc. Such activity requires an unyielding struggle against habits of dilettantism, of improvisation, of 'rhetorical' solutions or those proposed for effect. The work has to be done particularly in written form, just as it is in written form that criticisms have to be made -- in the form of terse, succinct notes: this can be achieved if the material is distributed in time, etc.; the writing down of notes and criticisms is a didactic principle rendered necessary by the need to combat the habits formed in public speaking -- prolixity, demagogy and paralogism. This type of intellectual work is necessary in order to impart to autodidacts the discipline in study which an orthodox scholastic career provides, in order to Taylorise intellectual work. Hence the usefulness of the principle of the 'old men of Santa Zita' of whom De Sanctis speaks in his memoirs of the Neapolitan school of Basilio Puoti: i.e. the usefulness of a certain 'stratification' of capabilities and attitudes, and of the formation of work-groups under the guidance of the most highly-skilled and highly-developed, who can accelerate the training of the most backward and untrained."