Rex, John

Rex, John

Bio: (1925-2011) South African-British sociologist. John Rex was born in South Africa, where he completed his undergraduate studies. He later moved to the UK and received his Ph.D. from the University of Leeds. Rex has taught at several universities, including the universities of Birmingham, Warwick, Toronto, Cape Town, and New York.

In his book Key Problems in Sociological Theory (1961), Rex used the Weberian theory of action to explain the importance of social conflicts for modern society. He believed that social conflicts are not always bad, and sometimes they can also be very important because they help to eliminate structural inequalities. Unlike Marxists, he believed that in modern society there are several structural inequalities, other than class inequalities, which can be equally negative. Racial inequalities are one of the most significant inequalities, and Rex has devoted several studies to this topic. Rex believes that what is characteristic of racism is that it is always a value system that explains the differences between ethnic groups in a deterministic way and presents those differences as positive or negative.

One of his most significant studies on racism is the book Race, Community and Conflict (1967), which he co-authored with Robert Moore. In this book, the authors explore how the process of rising real estate prices has influenced the creation of "housing classes". Housing classes denote a situation in which racial and ethnic minorities live in isolated urban areas where there are inadequate housing conditions. Such housing isolation only increases racial discrimination and the poor economic situation of ethnic and racial minorities.

In the book Colonial Immigrants in a British City: A Class Analysis (1979), Rex and Sally Tomlinson showed, based on statistics and their own research, that there are two different labor markets in Britain: the primary labor market is characterized by high wages, good working conditions, job security and the possibility of advancement; while the situation on the secondary labor market is completely different. Immigrants who had the status of racial minorities were far more represented in the secondary labor market in Britain. These immigrant workers did not identify themselves with white workers and their culture but considered themselves a separate, unprivileged class. Rex advocated for clear political and social measures to improve the situation of these populations and warned that the absence of such measures could lead to racially based conflicts.

Rex also studied the elites in Britain and concluded that the entire educational system, through which the members of the elite pass, was organized in such a way as to instill, in the elites, ideas about the legitimacy of the existing order. This order is reflected in the unequally distributed power of different social groups, that is, the domination of the elite over others. He developed a theory of a plural society, such as the British, in which several social groups resemble medieval estates, each with its own culture, as well as rights and privileges related to the function they perform within the wider society.

Main works

Key Problems in Sociological Theory (1961);

Race, Community and Conflict (1967);

Race, Colonialism and the City (1973);

Approaches to Sociology (1974);

Sociology and the Demystification of the Modern World (1974);

Colonial Immigrants in a British City: A Class Analysis (1979);

A Working Paradigm for Race Relations (1981);

Apartheid and Social Research (1981);

Social Conflict: A Theoretical and Conceptual Analysis (1981);

Theories of Race and Ethnic Relations (1986);

The Ghetto and the Underclass (1987);

Ethnic Minorities and the Modern Nation State (1996).

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