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Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City Hardcover – Jun 9 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1 edition (June 9 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805082360
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805082364
  • Product Dimensions: 3.4 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 816 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #197,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rodge TOP 50 REVIEWER on Feb. 24 2010
Format: Hardcover
This odd and difficult to fathom story, which is nevertheless true, shows Ford's attempt to bring small-town America to the Amazon and provide his factories with rubber in the process. Grandin's tale is well-written and fascinating, carrying the reader along to the conclusion. What surprised me was how long the place lasted, and how close Ford came to success in commercial terms, if not quite on the eccentric plane of preserving American utopia of old.

Like a good novel, the concluding portion casts what came before in a new light. What if Ford had succeeded, for all his faults and foibles? What if there was a seed of good in the plan? In the end, the tone becomes for wistful and ironic, rather than the condemnation and contempt one might expect.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Coach C TOP 500 REVIEWER on Sept. 3 2009
Format: Hardcover
In this fine example of history done right, Greg Grandin blends the writer's touch with the academic's rigor to produce a fantastic story about Henry Ford's own "Heart of Darkness" adventure in the Amazon jungle that had such high hopes but ended in an utter and drastic failure.

The book is primarily focused on Ford's desires on making his own rubber and transplanting his own utopian version of American life in the jungle. In my opinion, this was a good decision by Grandin, as the book would have become bloated had he included too much background information on Ford, fordism, and his many domestic ventures.

Fundamental to understanding the thinking behind "Fordlandia" is the progressive humanism of Ford and others who believed in their civilizing mission in uplifting the destitute through technology and innovation (ie. modernization ideology). Here, Grandin does a great job outlining how Ford had tried to do this in the Southern U.S. with the Muscle Shoals proposal which eventually FDR took up in the massive TVA electrification project.

Ultimately, Grandin argues that Fordlandia represented a "crystalline form of the utopianism that powered Fordism -- and by extension Americanism. It reveals the faith that a drive toward greater efficiency could be controlled and managed in such a way as to bring balance to the world and that technology itself, without the need for government planning, could sove whatever social problems arose from progress's advance." Grandin further concludes that the parable of Fordlandia is not just one of arrogance in that Ford thought he could tame the Amazon but but arrogance in that he believed that the forces of capitalism, once released, could still be contained.

In my own opinion, I think Grandin slightly overanalyzes.
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By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Oct. 14 2010
Format: Hardcover
"A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." - Winston Churchill

In the 1920s, the very wealthy American automaker, Henry Ford, decided to set up his own guaranteed rubber supply for the future development of the Model A and the expansion of his many factories. Greg Grandin, a modern historian, offers us an incredibly gripping history about how Ford and his associates attempted to create their own rubber plantations in the heart of the Amazon in an attempt to breakaway from the grips of the powerful British-American cartel. Ford never liked to pay more for any commodity than he had to if it could be avoided. This book delves into the nitty-gritties of why and how Ford pursued this foolhardy quest to be successful where others before him had failed miserably. Information emerges in the story that strongly suggests that the embattled Ford, who usually kept his own counsels, saw himself as a champion of a kind of libertarian causes to take on the US government's efforts to control big business. To that end, he promoted what appeared to be radically innovative ideas that would transform the workplace, improve wages and restore dignity to the American working class. The problem with this scheme is that all these changes had to, in the end, be exclusively profitable for Henry Ford. His obsession with making this model Amazonian plantation work is yet another example of both the determination and the hubris of the man. Once he got an idea that potentially gave him the edge on his competitors, Ford doggedly stuck with it through thick and thin.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on May 24 2010
Format: Hardcover
"Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall." -- Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV)

Henry Ford prided himself on rationalizing the economic model of the assembly line by preparing, if necessary, to develop his own raw materials so that neither shortages nor costs would derail his search for ultimate efficiency. Like many before him and many since then, Ford found out the limits of his business concept the hard way . . . by seeing others develop better alternatives that undermined his company's success.

One of these concepts involved avoiding the risk of paying too much for rubber, an essential raw material for tires and components. Rubber originally came from wild harvesting in the Amazon before some seeds were taken to Southeast Asia where plantation operations revolutionized production and lowered costs. Ford dreamed of creating massive, industrial-style plantations in the Amazon. His only problem was that he didn't bother to check out the agricultural facts: It was a bad idea because rubber plants are very vulnerable to disease in the Amazon when planted close together. Employ the same idea in other parts of the world, as Firestone did in Africa, and it would have worked.

A series of other miscalculations and errors followed so that Fordlandia became an expensive social experiment into creating Midwestern-style living in the jungle. Historian Greg Grandin expands the story to provide a glimpse into Henry Ford's personal philosophies and management style.

The results of trying to establish Fordlandia and the later developments were bad for virtually everyone, the typical consequences of ill-considered ventures.

The book will tell you more than you could expect to learn on your own about this obscure Ford venture.
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