The book had got as far as Ford deciding to build a city - Fordlandia - in the Amazon and kick out Indians who were in the way, employ others who looked docile and might learn, and import other workforce as needed. He wanted to cut out the middleman for rubber and have the cheapest manufacturing possible. He also wanted to utterly control the lives of all his workers. He paid well. He I gave this up.
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Ostensibly a heart-of-darkness rewrite set in the Amazon -- damaged protagonist travels up-river on an unknown mission to correct the dysfunction that corrupts a jungle enterprise, only to surface his own demons -- the book has an annoying structural flaw.
It oscillates between first-person-subjective and third-person-omniscient This double review is a tale of two forms. It oscillates between first-person-subjective and third-person-omniscient narrative, toggling plot chapters with the protagonist in Brazil against expositional scenes starring Henry Ford in Michigan. If the point is to instill reader sympathy with a potentially unreliable narrator, the conceit is undercut every other chapter. In any case, the experiment is wholly unnecessary.
There are better ways of addressing first-person POV constraints. For example, the memoir form permits superior knowledge by allowing the protagonist to reflect with experience and research on events as they are related, while still allowing the potential for subjective coloration. The author compounds these storytelling sins by failing to achieve historical accuracy in his choices of setting and characters.
There was no Rowwe in charge, no Argentine responsible for workforce recruitment and retention, and after the demolition of a neighboring shantytown along with its brothels and bars, no women except spouses brought to Fordlandia to serve as domesticating influences. The best that can be said of the fictional Fordlandia is that it offers a glimpse of plantation life, but even this description of neatly ordered clapboard bunkhouses on a bermuda grass plain may be wrong.
If so, then this book which lacks in sufficient style or literary verve to otherwise justify it is an utter waste of time. On the shores of Muscle Shoals as much as those of Belterra, we encounter a utopian beating against the limits of his antiquated understanding of this world. Here I was surprised to learn that Ford imagined and promoted a Tennessee Valley Authority a decade or so before its invention as an early piece of New Deal infrastructure.
Of course, Ford had wanted the TVA to be a "self-sustaining" Ford-built and run concession, one whose industrial elements would subsidize farmers on a seasonal basis when not tilling their fields. That vision of rural-industrial interdependence proved delusional, and in any case irrelevant as the Senate had the foresight and sense to keep the project under public auspices. There is a there there, though, one nicely grounded in reality. Jack could be seen around the plantation at all hours of the day, with men armed with shovels, machetes, and hoes, giving orders to clear a path and measuring the terrain with his footsteps….
I never found out if the reason for his zeal was because on the plantation he did not have to deal with the authorities or put up with the opinions of Rowwe or anyone else, or if it was because working the land brought back fond memories of the beautiful lands in Michigan, where he spent his childhood, the only truly happy time of his life.
The report went off into the description of the different feats that a young Indian named Tero had to accomplish in order to be recognized as the new warlord of the Munduruku tribe. I had the impression that a woman had written it. What does that mean? How would one write a sociology report in a gendered way? Do either seem particularly masculine or feminine? Thus introduced, the sociologist is immediately reduced to an object, subjected first to voyeurism before being relegated to service as a discardable trophy.
Does her femaleness matter? She is made to be sympathetic to the indigeneous population, but rather than serving as their champion she is rendered to be their nurturer, an Occidental uberMom. Prevailing economic thought had been that cities declined as industries failed, not as they became more competitive and powerful.
Ford was happy to pay an advanced for the time wage and onboard a large and diverse population, but he initially neglected to ensure that all these people had homes and communities capable of supporting them. Although factories could easily be relocated to the cheaper land of the suburbs, workers could not as easily be uprooted in the absence of existing infrastructure schools; integrated, affordable housing; groceries, stores, and services. This created perverse results: wasting the earnings, time, and energies of the working class in dealing with overcrowding in a slumlike environment with little alternatives for renegotiation or escape.
Leaving any component of this out risks knocking the system out of equilibrium. In effect, this is what the Ford Motor Company sought to do in its burgeoning Amazonian rubber plantation. He demolished the "disreputable straw village" where workers with families had crowded, replacing it with over a hundred new palm-roofed adobe houses equipped with water and electricity and laid out in "good lines, straight and true.
Yet while the Fords may conceivably have had the right concept, they were utterly defeated by presumptuous execution. Brazilians objected to the window screens that Ford officials insisted be used, believing that they served not to keep bugs out but to trap them in, "much as an old fly-trap collects flies.
Ford attempted to overwrite long-evolved patterns of behavior wholesale to patterns he imagined had served him and his company well elsewhere without bothering to understand or prepare for those he meant to replace. Ironically, he ended up every bit as wrong in Michigan as he was in Brazil. In a sense, this is the historical nuance that Sguiglia fails to communicate. But the article also acknowledged that high wages, in addition to serving as an inducement to remain on the line, actually created large markets [by inventing a middle class capable of buying the consumer goods they helped produce], which allowed industrialists to increase their takings even as profit margins were reduced….
The breaking down of the assembly process into smaller and smaller tasks, combined with rapid advances in transportation and communication, made it easier for manufacturers to break out of the dependent relationship established by Ford between high wages and large markets [and therefore the codependent relationship Ford established between manufacturer and factory worker]. Goods [and parts] could be made in one place and [assembled] and sold somewhere else, removing the incentive employers had to pay workers enough to buy the products they made….
But the parable is not quite right…. Fordlandia is indeed a parable of arrogance. The arrogance, though, is not that Henry Ford thought he could tame the Amazon but that he believed that the forces of capitalism, once released, could still be contained. Ford, of course, imagined his industrial method as leading to greater social cohesion….
Harley-Davidson… does not make motorcycles from start to finish in Manaus but rather assembles bikes from parts manufactured elsewhere, which it then sells to the Brazilian market…. In this way, corporations are driven to exploit the working poor, reaping profits by continuously churning out an assembly line of chatchkes for the materially wealthy to consume and as quickly replace.
Rather, it represents the inevitable output of the industrial system he helped establish unchecked by the regulatory guidance he consistently if self-interestedly fought. On one end is Fordlandia, a monument to the [pastoralist, sustainable] promise that was early-twentieth-century industrialization…. On the other is Manaus, a city plagued by the kind of urban problems Ford thought he could transcend but whose very existence owes much to the system he pioneered. Trying to reproduce America in the Amazon has yielded to outsourcing America to the Amazon.
To the contrary, the hubris there resides in culture clashes arising from wrongheaded change management and imposition of industrial technology that in the post-World War II period have inexorably, wastefully ground the mighty Amazon rainforest to sawdust. Highly recommended. Jan 22, Albert rated it it was amazing Excellent novel. Very interesting history, well written and evocative. It could be a classic. Jan 17, Jutta Margarete rated it it was amazing Amazing book and history. And very well written.
Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City
At that time the sole source of rubber was the South American tree Hevea brasiliensis, whose sap is natural latex. In the s a gaggle of entrepreneurial smugglers had secreted a stash of wild rubber tree seeds out of the Amazon rain forest, which they used to establish sprawling plantations in East Asia. But by the late s, the infamous automobile tycoon Henry Ford set out to break the back of this rubbery monopoly. His hundreds of thousands of new cars needed millions of tires, which were very expensive to produce when buying raw materials from the established rubber lords. Though enormously ambitious, the project was ultimately a fantastic failure. In the year , Ford hired a native Brazilian named Villares to survey the Amazon for a suitable location to host the massive undertaking.
Lost cities #10: Fordlandia – the failure of Henry Ford's utopian city in the Amazon
Share via Email Derelict rubber factories in Fordlandia. Local papers began raving about their future neighbour. Speculation ran wild: some columnists opined that Ford would be building a new railroad to the coast, or a new factory for his cars. Above all, they just wanted to know when he would be arriving. A city that would fuse the same concepts that Ford had championed throughout his career, and bring a better future to a forgotten part of the planet. And that city would bear his name: Fordlandia.
Back to when the word "banker" did not bring on waves of nausea. It is the early s and Henry Ford has worked out that it takes 7, operations to build a car, a third of them sufficiently simple to be done by "a one-legged man". Ford is about to heave us into an era of alienated labour, dead-end robotic boredom and, perhaps more significantly in our current climate, arrogant, unfettered business power. Not that he knows it; he thinks we are headed somewhere very different indeed. His workers would bash metal, but also nurture vegetables in small-town communities, not big cities. Their high wages would buy them cars — the same ones that they made — and the time to dig their gardens.
Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin
In the s, the Ford Motor Company sought to elude British monopoly over the supply of rubber, mainly used for producing tires and other car parts. Central America was considered; however, information about the rubber trees in the Amazon was uncovered[ who? Negotiations with the Brazilian government started[ when? An agreement was signed and the American industrialist received an area of about 2. It was immediately hindered by poor logistics and diseases that affected the workers who succumbed to yellow fever and malaria. The site was developed as a planned community with different areas of the city being designated to the Brazilian workers and the American managers, who lived in the so-called American Village. Typical American houses were built, as were a hospital, school, library, and hotel.
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