I do not believe in ghosts that come from the past, but I do believe in ghosts that come from the future. The future haunts the past. The past can't haunt anything because the dead can be nothing but dead, insensible in every way to experience. This means there's only one way to haunt; not two. We can go back in time, but the reverse is not at all possible.
To be alive is also to be a ghost, which makes perfect sense in two ways. For one, our metabolic turnover means that we are an image sustained by matter obtained from air, water, and food. What is in you now was mostly not there, in a material sense, a decade ago. For another, the time-traveling power of social memory allows us to visit what is no more.
Think only of the recent melting of the Robert E. Lee statue:
Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee statue has met its end, in a 2,250-degree furnace.— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) October 26, 2023
The divisive Confederate monument, the focus of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in 2017, was secretly melted down and will become a new piece of public art.
More on the process:… pic.twitter.com/XatZUfvku3
It looked like the dead Confederate general really was in hell, paying for his crimes against the foundation of human morality, which is, of course, our sociality, which is biological rather than heavenly. The fires engulfing his statue—a haunting and burning of the past—came as close as hell's fires can ever come to burning the real. And what this means, as I have written before here and elsewhere, is that many of the ghosts who are with us today have not even been born. If something spooky happens to you, do not turn back (regardant) but forward in time.
One problem vexes this haunting conception: it can only occur in a form of time that has been homogenized or universalized. For much of human history, time was nowhere because it was all over the place. There was the time of the San people, the Jōmon period, the islands of Polynesia, the tribes of Northern Europe, and so on. There was also no direction to time. It moved in every which way. How is it possible to haunt a messy world like this? How can you even imagine moving forward or backward in time if time is not totally uniform? We can only time travel in what Walter Benjamin correctly called in Theses on the Philosophy of History "empty, homogeneous time," and in this, as I argue, we can only travel in one direction.
But what made “empty, homogeneous time” possible? Capitalism. This economic system made haunting possible by grouping and consolidating the scattered human times (Polynesian time, Han time, Shona time, Zulu time, Gaelic time, Tillamook time) into one global space that had one direction: from the past, in the present, to the future (the "synthetic unity [of wage labor] activity"). Only in capitalist time, which is progressive, or, put another way, Newtonian (which is the same as “empty, homogeneous time”) can we imagine houses that are haunted. A hut outside of capitalism can't be haunted because it exists outside of truly retrievable time. That hut exists in scattered time, which can't be historical. Capitalism, which is as real as the stars in the sky or the sea, made universal time travel possible.
I have Carol C. Gould's Marx's Social Ontology to thank for inspiring this line of dream/thinking.