The Reckoning (A summary/ethical view)

Topics: Ford Motor Company, Automotive industry, Henry Ford Pages: 6 (1113 words) Published: April 28, 2014


The Reckoning

I read The Reckoning by award-winning author David Halberstam. David Halberstam (April 10, 1934 – April 23, 2007) was an American journalist and historian, known for his early work on the Vietnam War, his work on politics, history, the Civil Rights Movement, business, media, American culture, and his later sports journalism. The Reckoning is the third book to a trilogy that Halberstam began with The Best and the Brightest and The Powers That Be. Powerfully developing his thesis that the complacency and shortsightedness of American workers and their bosses, especially the automakers of Detroit (Ford), have led to a decline of industrial know-how so critical that Asian carmakers, particularly the Japanese (Nissan), have virtually taken over the market. Halberstam a detailed story in The Reckoning that is alarming in its implications. Immediately after starting the book is a harsh, but very truthful scenario that will see America's standards of living fall appreciably only sacrifices will restore our "greatness." His book also goes into a skilled, dramatic interweaving analysis of the inside struggles of the Ford organization in the 1970s and the growth of the Japanese automotive industry, notably Nissan, since the 1950s. American and Japanese industrialists compete blindly on the one hand and with brilliant cunning on the other. The book is among the most absorbing of recent years, every page contributing to the breathtaking picture of an America that is going to learn to retool or else. The Reckoning focuses on a big part of history among two great industrial companies and their leaders: Ford in the United States and Nissan in Japan, throughout the 1970’s. A little history about the time before when the book was written, which leads into the book. Ford failed to heed Maxwell is no surprise to Halberstam, whose exhaustive research reveals an industrial giant held hostage to the raging ambitions of generations of owners and managers. If there is a villain to this tale, it's Henry Ford himself, not the genius who invented the assembly line but the aging autocrat who let his company slide into such shambles that for years bills literally were totaled by measuring the height of the stacks of slips on which they were written. Also receiving Halberstam's scrutiny in a series of brilliant and often devastating portraits are Henry Ford II, Robert McNamara, Walter Reuther, and Lee Iacocca (who here loses much of his heroic luster). Interwoven with this tale of greed and pride is the very different story of Nissan, a story of men (and this book is about men, solely) less devoted to ambition than to honor. If there is a hero to this tale, it's the dominant Japanese ethos, which fused Nissan's management and workers into a cohesive unit at the same time that Ford's staff squandered its energies in internecine squabbling. Halberstam worked on this book for five years. An impressive investment with a rich return: this is first-class journalism all the way. The story from the book begins with the role of the two Fords, the first and great Henry Ford and his grandson, Henry Ford 2d. Both men were a constructive force in the company, the first Henry Ford immeasurably so. Both, in their later years, were a sadly destructive influence. The Fords emerge in this story, perhaps inevitably, with much greater clarity than the men of Nissan - Yoshisuke Ayukawa, the founder, who was jailed after the war, and, more notably, Katsuji Kawamata, the rescuing banker, who, knowing little about cars and, it was said, unable to drive, built the modern company. The largest concern in the book is with the terms and outcome of the industrial competition between Japan and the United States. The terms of this competition that Halberstam believes to have been seen far more clearly in Japan than in this country. Our view was badly clouded by wartime success and the postwar euphoria of power....


Cited: Halberstam, David. The Reckoning. New York: Morrow, 1986. Print.
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