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Liberalism and Distributive Justice$
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Samuel Freeman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190699260

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190699260.001.0001

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The Basic Structure of Society as the Primary Subject of Justice

The Basic Structure of Society as the Primary Subject of Justice

Chapter:
(p.227) 7 The Basic Structure of Society as the Primary Subject of Justice
Source:
Liberalism and Distributive Justice
Author(s):

Samuel Freeman

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190699260.003.0008

Rawls says that there are two sources for the primacy assigned to the basic structure: the profound effects of basic social institutions on persons and their future prospects, and the need to maintain background justice. This chapter discusses the main reasons behind Rawls’s position that the basic structure of society is the primary subject of justice, and that the political constitution, property, and the economic system are the first subject to which principles of justice apply. First, the primacy of the basic structure is necessary for the freedom, equality, and independence of moral persons. Second, the basic structure’s priority is a condition of economic reciprocity and the just distribution of income and wealth. Third, the primacy of the basic structure is required by moral pluralism and the plurality of values and reasonable conceptions of the good among free and equal persons.

Keywords:   basic structure, Rawls, principles of justice, social institutions, background justice, difference principle

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