Fisher’s “Business Ontology” and the appeal of Donald Trump
Too many people see the work of Mark Fisher to be purely intellectual, meaningless, and overly nihilistic fodder (whatever that insinuates is up to you, for I myself do not hold such beliefs). However, as one may notice from actually engaging with the literature that Fisher put out for us (which should have been done before such pedantic commentary), is that Fisher mostly focuses on providing us a thorough analysis of the current state of things, or as he calls Post-Fordist (Neo-Liberal) Capitalism in a way that is easily applicable to the world around us, even more than how he does himself in his own works. Using people in pop-culture like Kurt Cobain, Mark Fisher concisely and thoroughly brutalizes Capitalism in a way that can be done only with it’s unbiased, and objective, examination. Mark Fisher explains a lot about what he calls Capitalist Realism in his book of the same name, but I would like to focus solely on one of his ideas that he names “Business Ontology” in a way that is easily accessible to anyone.
In the chapter “Capitalism and the Real,” Mark Fisher introduces the idea of a new “Business Ontology” by saying,
“Over the past thirty years, capitalist realism has successfully installed a ‘business ontology’ in which it is simply obvious that everything in society, including healthcare and education, should be run as a business.” (page 17)
As you see in the quote, Mark Fisher uses the healthcare and education institutions as hard-hitting examples of this happening, with the mass privatization of such industry they no longer become facilities for human good, rather they become money machines (Which, the same can be said for many more industry, I would say the Prison System is a strong example of this as well). But as Capital is the strongest force imaginable, let us apply such an ontology in a way that is undeniably true, the strongest example possible.
One of the biggest running points of the Trump campaign in 2016 was that candidate Donald Trump (republican) has ambitions to run the United States like one of his many businesses. As in this quote, Trump says:
“Under budget and ahead of schedule. So important. We don’t hear those words so often, but you will,”
Insinuating that the success of his businesses will ensure the success of the United States. So what, what’s the big deal? Well, with Trump being a controversial figure, this is what really changed the election in 2016. For the first time ever, this business ontology took new heights in his rise, from being a semi-charming T.V star to the head of the right-wing populist movement in America and all of this lead the the final installment of the business ontology.
No longer are questions of social equitability asked when determining policy. Now we ask “How could said bill effect the economy,” or “But how much of my tax dollars are going to be put towards this idea,” no matter the bill, the question of money will always be brought up one way or the other and in the end, it will be the determining factor.
For example, we do not have universal college, healthcare, or free transportation anywhere yet we have people who clearly need these thing to sustain themselves. Instead of asking whether or not nationalizing these industries and making them available for all of these people who are in need will help society, we ask how this will effect business. “How will these people work if they have everything given to them,” one may ask. You could give a clear answer, asking in return how they can work if they’re fucking dead, but that will do no good because the problem is now seen as an economic one.
The larger issue at hand with this implementation of a larger scale of business ontology is that there seems to be an observable layer of such an ontology.
I want to call this the “Layered Ontology” where, the more that becomes functional only in the context of business, the more impossible it is to imagine anything before it being conceived as anything other than a business as time passes.
Maybe a young and running communist of the 1950’s may have been asked (if even encountered in good faith) how janitors will be paid if it is no longer a business, and they could point to how healthcare is publicly owned, or whatever public organization they may want to point towards, but this is increasingly difficult to do as more and more industries are being completely privatized. The more things submit to this ontology, the more fermented everything before it is into the same logic.
Once the country becomes a business, it will only seem more impossible for something like a restaurant to stop being a tool for profit.
Donald Trump is a perfect example of the post-modern, right wing populist, proponent of a new form of Capitalist Realism. Instead of going out of his way to push forward this new thinking of there being no alternative, he made us push him into the spotlight, using is controversial rhetoric and ever-so wealthy background as a foundation for himself, he used the way that we react to him as a way for him to be able to fully push the idea that there really is no alternative to capitalism. This ontology behaves like capital does, and there isn’t much more time until we can’t imagine a world where driving is seen as impossible without a profit motive.
In this conclusion, however, I want to bring a more positive light to this issue, there was clear response to the way Trump wanted to run the country, with dozens of articles being made in response to him, ripping the idea that the country should be run like a country to shreds, there is a clear view now that not everything should be run like a business, possible giving light for the destruction to such an ontology. This could be used as a means to rethink capitalism and target capitalist realism as a whole, though I may be too optimistic in saying so. Though, there is always hope to be had, as Mark Fisher said:
The tiniest event can tear a hole in the grey curtain of reaction which has marked the horizons of possibility under capitalist realism. From a situation in which nothing can happen, suddenly anything is possible again.