Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City
Greg Grandin, . . Metropolitan, $27.50 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-8236-4
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.
Reviewed on: 05/04/2009
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