Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently… Henry Ford


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When Armand Hammer, acting for Lenin, told Henry Ford that the new Soviet Union wanted tractors ahead of luxury goods, Ford replied that automobiles are not a luxury but a means of service required by modern conditions.

It was a thought he later expressed in his 1926 book Today and Tomorrow.

We have remade this country with automobiles, wrote Ford. But we do not have these automobiles because we are prosperous. We are prosperous because we have them.

When the representatives of Russia came to buy tractors for their state farms, wrote Ford, we told them: No, you first ought to buy automobiles and get your people used to machinery and power and moving about with some freedom. The motor cars will bring roads, and then it will be possible to get the products of your farms to the cities.

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Later, in 1929 under Josef Stalin, the Soviet Union persuaded Ford to cooperate on building and supervising a car plant in Gorky to turn out Model T cars. Ford made $30 million on the deal, and in the 1930s 100,000 cars a year were built in Gorky and Ford, like most American industrialists of his age – including especially Edison and Firestone – believed America could be exported by building factories and imposing their visions of production throughout the world all of which would lower wages here. The people who are fighting globalism will probably lose but it is not something new and it is no coincidence that capitalism in its largest form – the monopoly – has assiduously courted socialism for the last hundred years.

Fordlandia: the rise and fall of Henry Ford’s forgotten jungle city New York : Metropolitan Books, 2009 Greg Grandin Rubber plantations Brazil Fordlandia History 20th century. Hardcover. 1st. ed., later printing. xii, 416 p.: ill., maps; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [373]-398) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG 

In 1927, Henry Ford, the richest man in the world, bought a tract of land twice the size of Delaware in the Brazilian Amazon. His intention was to grow rubber, but the project rapidly evolved into a more ambitious bid to export America itself, along with its golf courses, ice-cream shops, bandstands, indoor plumbing, and Model T‘s rolling down broad streets.

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Fordlandia, as the settlement was called, quickly became the site of an epic clash. On one side was the car magnate, lean, austere, the man who reduced industrial production to its simplest motions; on the other, the Amazon, lush, extravagant, the most complex ecological system on the planet. Ford’s early success in imposing time clocks and square dances on the jungle soon collapsed, as indigenous workers, rejecting his midwestern Puritanism, turned the place into a ribald tropical boomtown. Fordlandia’s eventual demise as a rubber plantation foreshadowed the practices that today are laying waste to the rain forest.

More than a parable of one man’s arrogant attempt to force his will on the natural world, Fordlandia depicts a desperate quest to salvage the bygone America that the Ford factory system did much to dispatch. As Greg Grandin shows in this gripping and mordantly observed history, Ford’s great delusion was not that the Amazon could be tamed but that the forces of capitalism, once released, might yet be contained.

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