Fordlandia was the brain child of Henry Ford, and the book begins in 1928 at Ford's unveiling of his second car, the Model A, with Thomas Edison and Ford's son, Edsel, is at his side. While the media focuses on the car, Ford is more concerned with his new project, Fordlandia. But why create this new city in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon nearly 18 hours from the nearest city? The book outlines that there’s a European monopoly on rubber and latex that is mostly focused in Asia, and US businesses, specifically Ford and Harvey Firestone, are concerned of a spike in latex prices, that are so crucial to tire production within the United States. The introduction also talks of how there’s a mystery that surrounds the Amazon. At many times there have been people who go into the rainforest and either don’t come back out or they don’t come back the same person. This is an influential idea within the Brazilian culture, but Ford completely ignores this in hopes of establishing his community. Included, is Greg Grandin’s personal account of traveling to where Fordlandia once was, and seeing how no matter how much Ford tried, the city failed. He talks of how Ford no only wanted to prefect the production of rubber, but he wanted to prefect the city, he wanted a better society that he could not achieve in the United States. This part of the book is slightly confusing as it jumps around between mental theories of people’s perceptions and actual events. It also jumps between Grandin’s present explorations and what was going on back in 1928, and even before then.
The year is 1925, Firestone is all about combating the European rubber issue that is being perpetuated by Winston Churchill, who’s trying to limit the production of rubber which would cause the price to rapidly rise. Herbert Hoover, who was secretary of state at the time, even helped fund explorations into rubber production into Latin America, a place that would eventually be looked at by Ford, and become the home of Fordlandia. Ford tasked his secretary Liebold with finding a good place for rubber production and came back with the southern Amazon. This had once been home to bustling rubber cities which had a monopoly on rubber tapping because of huge rubber trees, but a British imperialist took seeds and transported them to the Asian countries where monopolies now exist. The original trappers of the Amazon were in dept to the people they sold their rubber to and in all it was a very imperial system in which few lords held huge amounts of wealth.
This chapter goes back in time to talk of how Ford originally got its success, with Henry Ford putting together existing manufacturing techniques which intern perfected it. Ford was able to churn cars out but had a problem with the employees and eventually began to pay five dollars a day, way more than other companies in the time, but this came with a stipulation. Ford wasn't just a capitalist, he wanted to perfect society, and because of that he had his “sociological department,” follow around his employees and make sure they were living good lives and not wasting it away. It also goes into how Ford was not only an entrepreneur at the time, but his ideas turned him into a philosopher of sorts. His philosophies often changed, and they contradicted themselves, but at the same time he became one of the most respected men in the United States.
WXT-In this section, it’s all centered on the necessities of the industrial revolution. Without Ford’s invention of the mass produced and affordable car, then there would never be any need for Fordlandia and its rubber production. On the world context, the exchange of rubber between the European imperialists and the US economy is a pressing issue, as the drastic increase in price even looms the idea of war because of the economic issues.
The controversy over Churchill’s rubber policies is a political issue as it could cause hostility between the US and Britain. The US can control imports like oil because of the close proximity of their existence to the United States, but rubber is completely out of the US’s hands. Many companies such as Goodyear, don’t try to find new sources, because their politically associated with Britain and don’t want to get on their bad side.
Rubber trees/vines need a specific environment to grow, and originally only exist within the Amazon rainforest, but it takes the export of these seeds to Asian counties to change the world monopoly a distribution of wealth based on the trade of rubber. The problem with the rainforest is that it has a large amount of insects and animals that will disturb rubber production if it is all centered on large plantations. The section also talks of how Grandin returns to Fordlandia and he can see all of the remnants, as the one large water tower still looms over the desolate city below. In this case, the environment has triumphed over humans.
In the introduction specifically, it is talked of the mystery that surrounds the Amazon. Many of the locals are concerned with the forest and all that it has power over, whether real or not in the eyes of Ford.
Large corporations came to dominate the U.S. economy as it increasingly focused on the production of consumer goods, driven by new technologies and manufacturing techniques. (Key Concept 7.1 1A.)
Ford’s society is the first of a major industrial society. He has perfected manufacturing techniques to mass produce his cars, all he needs is an efficient source of raw materials that he hopes to industrialize.