This book revolves around an imaginary encounter with Marx's ghost, a ghost with comprehensive awareness of most major events, which occurred from the time he lived until the present. It is written to inspire hope, to build a sense that there are viable alternatives to contemporary corporate capitalism and brutal militaristic empires. It shows that Marxism is not a relic of the past, but offers tools for understanding present crises, how society evolved to this situation, and how it can offer a vantage for seeing beyond where we now are. The Marx of this book makes it clear that he never forgot the commitment to personal freedom and the transcendence of alienated social relations embodied in his early writings. The ghost is aware of how his work has been used to justify repressive authoritarian regimes, which were in some sense worse than capitalism, and he assumes responsibility for ambiguities within his writings, which are vulnerable to being profoundly misread. The ghost uses the methodology and framework he developed while he was alive to trace the contradictions embedded within capitalism and shows how the system's inherent logic brought it to the present contradictions, where it is teetering on collapse.
The late Dr. Marx recognizes that the fall of capitalism does not guarantee a more humane world, and that it could produce a barbarism more destructive than anything history has yet seen or even total oblivion. He discusses events that occurred after his death, including fascism, the great depression, regimes that perverted his name, and the risk of that human technology could destroy the entire biosphere. In the process, he tries to distinguish when his predictions were right and wrong. When he failed, he explains why.
The ghost presents a panorama of models, many of which are already in practice, both in the United States and around the world, and discusses the strength and weaknesses of each. The models he presents include whole countries, such as the social democracies of Western Europe, which although still capitalist, take account of contradictions Marx observed, and legitimize themselves by offering a more equitable distribution of wealth and power than the United States. On a smaller scale, he looks at local co-operatives, in which all the members participate in their management and share their benefits and costs. None of these alternatives are a panacea for all ills, but they do point at directions, deserving of consideration. Indeed, there may not be one cure-all that will satisfy everyone and fix all problems. A caution the ghost offers is to be patient and flexible and to not expect instantaneous transformation.
How to organize a revolution, once successful, without producing chaos or a new authoritarianism, may be just as big a problem as how to win the revolution in the first place. The last section of the book presents Marx the activist, who compares his own dedicated work with unions and revolutionaries to current movements, such as the anti-globalization and anti-austerity activism represented by groups such as the Occupy movements. Participatory democracy emerges as truer to his vision of the good life and social change than the authoritarian statism and movements that have become the popular representation of his thinking. This Marx is a flexible, engaged theorist whose political passions are inseparable from his intellectual work, and whose ideas are adaptive to current circumstances. You need to read this book!