From 1973 to 1987, Volkswagen's (VW) 140,000 hectare 'pioneer' cattle ranch on the Amazon frontier laid bare the limits of capitalist development. These limits were not only economic, with the core management of a multinational company engaged in the 'integration' of an extreme world periphery, but they were also legal and ethical, with the involvement of indentured labor and massive forest burning. Its physical limits were exposed by an unpredictable ecosystem refusing to submit to VW's technological arsenal. Antoine Acker reveals how the VW ranch, a major project supported by the Brazilian military dictatorship, was planned, negotiated, and eventually undone by the intervention of internationally connected actors and events.Read more
- One of the first books on the topic to focus on a Western country other than the US: it has a wide global appeal and can interest students on at least three continents
- Tells the story of a fascinating case, embedded in a 'global history' of rain forest protection
- Suitable for multi-disciplinary use, including history, area studies of Latin America, Brazil, Europe, and Germany, political sciences, environmental studies, and business and development studies
- Honorable Mention, 2018 Warren Dean Memorial Prize for the Best Book in Brazilian History, Conference on Latin American History
Reviews & endorsements
'Acker tells a fascinating story about the rise and fall of Cristalino, Volkswagen's cattle ranch in the Brazilian jungle. He masterfully demonstrates how changing political pressures, cultural misconceptions, a questionable social agenda, and environmental ignorance resulted in the failure of this project. This is a highly topical book, and international environmental history at its very best.' Christof Mauch, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, GermanySee more reviews
'Acker's book opens new avenues for the historical understanding of the 'decades of destruction' in the Amazon Rainforest. The unusual entry of a company such as Volkswagen into that complex frontier of deforestation and ranching reveals in a concrete way all the arrogance, irresponsibility and ignorance of the local biocultural context that marked the whole process.' José-Augusto Pádua, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro
'Moving seamlessly between the perspectives of local workers, trade unionists and priests, Brazilian national politicians, German managers, and Third World solidarity activists, Antoine Acker provides a powerful analysis of VW's cattle ranch in Brazil and the modern exploitation of the Amazon. Original, insightful, and a fascinating contribution to global history.' Kiran Klaus Patel, Universiteit Maastricht, The Netherlands
'At last, readers have a fine-tuned historical monograph focused on the Brazilian Amazon during the military era, one that links the region's economic development and environmentalist resonance to the political economy of capitalist globalization … Our understanding of the Amazon's recent history, nevertheless, is immeasurably enriched by Acker's study.' Seth Garfield, H-LatAm
'In articulating new conceptual lines that make the work so rich and original, Volkswagen in the Amazon fits well into a new wave of recent studies (including my own) that demonstrate how the very notion of development, far from being a clear and constant signifier, is rather a polysemic conduit for different and competing meanings among different social actors situated in concrete historical junctures.' Rafael R. Ioris, The American Historical Review
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- Date Published: September 2017
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781316647776
- length: 328 pages
- dimensions: 229 x 152 x 19 mm
- weight: 0.48kg
- contains: 8 b/w illus.
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
1. Setting the stage: the Amazon as a horizon
2. The making of a model ranch (1973–1976)
3. Development in the age of scarcity (1976–1983)
4. Out-of-date modernity: forced labor at Cristalino (1983–1986)
5. Cristalino's unhappy ending.
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