Today on Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan reviewed Greg Grandin’s new book, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City. I can’t believe I’d never heard about the overly ambitious, culturally unaware, ecologically disastrous, over-the-top antics of Henry Ford, especially his failed all-American town called Fordlandia reconstructed deep in the jungle of Brazil. The book highlights the culture clashes that ensued between Ford workers living on a Main St. built 18 hours from anything resembling civilization:

Things went bad over simple stuff, like serving food. “Ford had very particular understandings about what a proper diet should be,” Grandin says. “He tried to impose brown rice and whole-wheat bread and canned peaches and oatmeal — and that itself created discontent.”

But when a Ford engineer changed the way food was served — from wait service to cafeteria-style service — the workers rebelled. Angry workers destroyed the mess hall, pushed trucks into the river and nearly ruined the whole operation. It cost tens of thousands of dollars of damage, Grandin says.

But Ford didn’t just want to tame men; he wanted to tame the jungle itself — and therein was his next failure.

It’s like the jungle itself inevitably made people really wild, made it impossible to live in an assembly-line fashion.

Listen to Corrigan’s whole review here. If you think about it, the failings of Fordlandia actually make modern-day Detroit all the weightier.

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