Essentially this small volume is a review of the variety of methods —from persuasion and corruption to sabotage and violence—used by the foreign-owned petroleum and mining companies between 1910 and 1940 in opposing official Mexican policies they deemed harmful to their interests. Under the guise of attempting to devise a political science methodology to analyze the machinations and use of pressure by foreign-controlled corporations in Mexico, Meyer has introduced a body of hard historical data—a practice often ignored by political scientists. Unfortunately, while Meyer maintains his place as a fine historian, he shows up as only a mediocre analytical political scientist. He presents no model for the functioning of the Mexican government —president, cabinet, revolutionary family, bureaucracy, congress, party, local officials—much less for its relations with the business community in general (as in Robert Shafer’s Mexican Business Organizations ) or with foreign interests in particular. The end result is a good but all too short historical survey of the political activities of foreign companies in Mexico classified by method instead of chronology.
Meyer has set forth once again the at least twice-told tale of American interference and intervention in Mexican affairs. But twice-told tales are often the best ones, for they can bring forth subtle meanings. Meyer recognizes the essential bourgeois nature of the Constitution of 1917, and therefore the complexity for Mexicans and foreigners of living with the political confusions engendered by the mixed capitalist-socialist-nationalist economic goals of the post-revolutionary era (pp. 58-59). His recounting also tells us much concerning the nature of American foreign policy, if not quite enough about the character of the Mexican leaders who faced the grim weight of American diplomatic pressure with the constant hint of undiplomatic consequences. Although it might simplistically resolve many problems, Meyer does not subscribe to dependency theory.
As is evident from the content of this book, Meyer has continued his perusal of the U.S. State Department archives, material that he used so well in his México y los Estados Unidos en el conflicto petrolero, 1917-1942 (2nd ed., 1972). Other sources and materials are judiciously used, but after the work of Robert F. Smith (whose The United States and Revolutionary Nationalism in Mexico  is mentioned but once in a footnote) Meyer’s documentary base seems to be only two-dimensional. The numerous collections used by Smith of private papers of businessmen and of State Department officials, which would give this story depth, are lacking. Meyer does not attempt to analyze the evolution of revolutionary and post-revolutionary government policy or the character of the various men involved from Carranza and Obregón to Calles, and from Pani and Abelardo Rodríguez to Cárdenas. The reader hardly gets a mention of the significance of Ambassadors Fletcher, Sheffield, Morrow, or Daniels, and only slightly more information concerning the nature of counter-pressure groups, such as labor. In any event, the nonsensical financial description of the so-called most important mining companies (pp. 39-40) throws doubt on Meyer’s mastery of material relating to that economic group.
This little study does have several nuggets of new and useful information, but it is either a political science tract that did not work, or, as I would rather believe, an historian’s working paper: it has neither an index nor a bibliography.