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Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry…
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Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City (edition 2009)

by Greg Grandin

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6952722,733 (3.58)46
The stunning, never-before-told story of the quixotic attempt to recreate small-town America in the heart of the Amazon, "Fordlandia" depicts a desperate quest to salvage the bygone America that the Ford factory system did much to dispatch.
Member:jhbadger
Title:Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City
Authors:Greg Grandin
Info:Metropolitan Books (2009), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 432 pages
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Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin

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This should have been a fascinating story and yet it was a struggle to finish (and I do not discourage easily.) ( )
  Lemeritus | May 5, 2019 |
While superficially bizarre this examination of Henry Ford's pet project to rationalize rubber production on modern lines is a great example of setting out from arbitrary (if defensible) first principles only to wind up with a disaster. Motivated by pique against a British initiative to create a cartel of natural rubber producers Henry Ford assumed that his normal operating procedures could tame the Amazon and that he would do well by doing good by bringing his version of modern civilization to the benighted Brazilians; whether they wanted it or not. It's all apiece of what Charles Lindbergh described as the Ford philosophy of act first (when inspiration struck) and plan later, creating a situation that the author describes (if it were a movie) as a cross between "Modern Times" and "Fitzcarraldo." I know that I'm also reminded of the Soviet Gulag system in its prime, where with enough resources, enough will, and enough bodies, one could triumph over any obstacle. I suspect that some readers will learn more about the machinations of the Ford Motor Company than they really want to know as the author does not gloss over Old Man Ford's often disquieting and creepy behavior. On the other hand, the region of Brazil in question is now a sinkhole of the worst excesses of modern capitalism in the "Age of Globalism" to the degree that Ford's paternalism has a certain degree of nobility in the rapidly fading afterglow of its demise. ( )
  Shrike58 | Jul 12, 2018 |
Did you know that Henry Ford, in the middle of fighting unions, being anti-Semetic, and otherwise shaping car culture, tried to build a productive village in the Brazilian rainforest in order to supply latex to his production lines? I did not! It didn’t go well, for a variety of reasons both environmental and human. The anti-government Ford ended up relying heavily both on the Brazilian and US governments in trying to make a go of Fordlandia, but it still didn’t work. The last chapter is a truly depressing account of deforestation and environmental destruction in the Amazon, but what the book really brings home is that, though our culture celebrates the successes of private enterprise, we don’t talk about private failures a lot. And most businesses, and even most endeavors of successful businesses, fail. The difference between businesses and government is that, when government fails, it can’t just go bankrupt and go away. ( )
  rivkat | Jun 13, 2016 |
I wanted to like this. But I got almost 1/4 of the way through and we were still negotiating - no, talking about the negotiations - for the purchase of land in the Amazon. I kept waiting for the title to be relevant. Just too dry, too much distance from the action. These people were flesh & blood, with fears & passions etc, but I never believed it.
1 vote Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
First off, I did not realize Aldous Huxley's Brave New World was a response to Fordism (I know, I struggle), nor did I realize Ford was so... paternalistic (it's all coming together now!). Details the acquisition of a large land area in the Brazilian Amazon by Ford with the initial intent to establish a rubber plantation. The mission eventually morphs into founding a mid-western town (in the jungle) based upon Ford's take on the wholesome American values that were quickly becoming outdated in the states. Both failed spectacularly. Crazy interesting read on the abundant shenanigans in the jungle (by shenanigans I mean mismanagement and misery) and the cultural upheaval going on back home with workers demanding the right to organize and collectively bargain. As ridiculous as his rigidity appears in some cases, in others it's rather admirable. Mayhem at its finest. Anyone interested in a trip up the Tapajós? ( )
  dandelionroots | Jan 31, 2016 |
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Epigraph
Why, though, did we need a Mahagonny?
Because the world is a foul one.
-BERTOLT BRECHT
The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
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To Emilia Viotti da Costa
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January 9, 1928. Henry Ford was in a spirited mood as he toured the Ford Industrial Exhibit with his son, Edsel, and his aging friend Thomas Edison, feigning fright at the flash of news cameras as a circle of police officers held back admirers and reporters.
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