Recently I’ve noticed several visitors to this blog who had searched for J.B. Priestley’s essay “The Wrong Ism”. (I know this thanks to WordPress’s lovely statistics features, which are an absolute mine of useful information). So here is some information about this essay for the benefit of future enquirers.
“The Wrong Ism” was originally published in the New Statesman, and later appeared in two anthologies of Priestley’s essays, The Moments (Heinemann, 1966) and Essays of Five Decades (Heinemann, 1969). As far as I know it is not in print, but should be readily available from libraries or the second-hand book trade.
The essay is classic Priestley. He discusses three “Isms”: regionalism, internationalism, and nationalism. Love of your own region, your roots, gives life texture and richness: landscape, language, food, jokes. Internationalism is world civilisation, building a better society, the arts, science. Priestley appreciated both: witness his wonderful writings about the Yorkshire of his boyhood, and his powerful journalism calling for an end to nuclear weapons. Nationalism he felt harmed both ideas, because it was all about power: aggressive, narrow, bureaucratic, and making people’s lives harder for the sake of ambition.