In the review, Mishra called Ferguson “homo atlanticus redux” who “writes about being seduced away from a stodgy Oxbridge career … to the United States, ‘where the money and power actually were.’ ” He goes on, making reference to Ferguson’s written support of the US “devoting a larger percentage of its vast resources to making the world safe for capitalism and democracy” (even if necessary by military force, adds Mishra) and referencing an April 2003 New York Times Magazine piece in which Ferguson writes “I am a fully paid-up member of the neoimperialist gang.”
“Which gang you belong to may be at the heart of the conflict arising between right-leaning Ferguson and left-leaning Mishra,” writes the LA Times about the spat.
In an outraged 900-word letter to the editor published Nov. 17 in the LRB, Ferguson writes:
“It is not my habit to reply to hostile book reviews, but a personal attack that amounts to libel is another matter. Pankaj Mishra purports to discuss my book 'Civilisation: The West and the Rest,' but in reality his review is a crude attempt at character assassination, which not only mendaciously misrepresents my work but also strongly implies that I am a racist....
“The London Review of Books is notorious for its left-leaning politics. I do not expect to find warm affection in its pages. Much of what I write is simply too threatening to the ideological biases of your coterie. Nevertheless, this journal used, once, to have a reputation for intellectual integrity and serious scholarship. Pankaj Mishra’s libellous and dishonest article brings the LRB as well as himself into grave disrepute.”
Ferguson went on to demand an apology “for [Mishra’s] highly offensive and defamatory allegation of racism.”