Rex, John(1925-) South-African born social theorist and social researcher (especially on race), who for an important part of his career was the Director of the Social Science Research Council (later ESRC) research unit on ethnic relations based first at Aston University and more latterly at the University of Warwick. His contributions to British sociology have been wide-ranging. In his first and influential book, Key Problems of Sociological Theory (1961), he offered a synthesis of classical approaches in sociology which emphasized the role of conflict alongside values and norms in human societies (see also CONFLICT THEORY). He continued to stress the importance of a broad approach to theory in sociology and became impatient when the revival of theory in British sociology which he had urged, and in which his own work had been greatly instrumental, led in his view to too great a willingness to jettison classical ideas and to follow current fashions, and also to a onesided emphasis on MARX. In the study of race his work has been consistently innovative, as well as radical, and has mixed theory with empirical research in a way that is comparatively rare in British sociology introducing in particular the idea of HOUSING CLASSES. Examples of these studies are Race, Community and Conflict (1967), and Colonial Immigrants in a British City (1979) (with Sally Tomlinson). Other works by John Rex include Sociology and the Demystification of the World (1974), Race, Colonialism and the City (1970), and the influential collection of invited essays Discovering Sociology 1973).
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000