- Hardcover: 432 pages
- Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1 edition (June 9, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0805082360
- ISBN-13: 978-0805082364
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 145 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #340,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City 1st Edition
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Amazon Best of the Month, June 2009: Proving that truth can indeed be stranger than fiction, Fordlandia is the story of Henry Ford's ill-advised attempt to transform raw Brazilian rainforest into homespun slices of Americana. With sales of his Model-T booming, the automotive tycoon saw an opportunity to expand his reach further by exploiting a downtrodden Brazilian rubber industry. His vision, the laughably-named Amazonian outpost of Fordlandia, would become an enviable symbol of efficiency and mark the Ford Motor Company as a player on the global stage. Or so he thought. With thoughtful and meticulous research, author Greg Grandin explores the astounding oversights (no botanists were consulted to confirm the colony's agricultural viability) and painful arrogance (little thought was paid to how native Brazilians would react to an American way of life) that hamstrung the project from the start. Instead of ushering in a new era of commerce, Fordlandia became a cautionary tale of a dream destroyed by hubris. --Dave Callanan
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Gandin, an NYU professor of Latin American history, offers the thoroughly remarkable story of Henry Ford's attempt, from the 1920s through 1945, to transform part of Brazil's Amazon River basin into a rubber plantation and eponymous American-style company town: Fordlandia. Gandin has found a fascinating vehicle to illuminate the many contradictory parts of Henry Ford: the pacifist, the internationalist, the virulent anti-Semite, the $5-a-day friend of the workingman, the anti-union crusader, the man who ushered America into the industrial age yet rejected the social changes that followed urbanization. Both infuriating and fascinating, Ford is only a piece of the Fordlandia story. The follies of colonialism and the testing of the belief that the Amazon—where 7,882 organisms could be found on any given five square miles—could be made to produce rubber with the reliability of an auto assembly line makes a surprisingly dramatic tale. Although readers know that Fordlandia will return to the jungle, the unfolding of this unprecedented experiment is compelling. Grandin concludes that Fordlandia represents in crystalline form the utopianism that powered Fordism—and by extension Americanism. Readers may find it a cautionary tale for the 21st century. 54 b&w photos. (June)
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The author is quick to discount the manner in which ford "blindly" set up the plantation, and the book would be stronger with more external verification of his claims. I do not doubt they are in part correct - just that they could be presented more convincingly.
I enjoyed the book very much. Having been raised in Michigan, I already knew most of the ford history, and still think a visit to greenfield village is one of the highlights of American cultural history. Its lesson on how long it took manufacturers to re- design the workplace for electricity instead of steam has played out again in my lifetime as first personal computers and then the Internet have had similarly profound impact on how we work.
This book added to that understanding. By pushing agriculture into the forest in an effort to better people's lives - as well as make money - ford was a pioneer in outsourcing. The lesson this failure taught was that trying to control the whole process just because you control most of it is often not as efficient as letting others do what they may be able do better than you. Ford himself learned this lesson can as he later bought rubber from s.e. Asia after the war. I suspect in fact he had several irons the fire with regards to sourcing.
Towards the end of the book, we see in contrast that ford's failed idea later took root as some of the Amazon was ploughed over to plant his beloved soybean. Soy grown there that is now being used as he had foreseen in manufacturing. A good idea, germinating at the wrong time, may not bloom - but it is still a good idea. Henry ford was a complicated guy, and this book serves to shed light on only some part his life. But it does a good job telling a very interesting, somewhat prophetic story.
While I appreciated, to a degree, the in-depth bios of the various players, I felt that those sections were sometimes overdrawn and lengthy. I understand the need to establish personality, motives, etc. but in some cases the anecdotes just went on for far too long. I did find it interesting, however, that the book tracks the development of Fordlandia in parallel with Ford's own life and changes in his perspectives on values, ideals, and lifestyles.
I took away one star for writing style. While the content is interesting, the execution is somewhat sloppy, as others have noted. The text is not truly a pleasure to read as other historical novels I have read in the past. It is, in short, not the page-turner it had the potential to be given the material. In some places it was just difficult getting through to the next page....