Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
In political theory, basic structure consists of those social, economic, and political institutions that fundamentally affect a person's opportunities over a lifetime. The concept plays an important role in John Rawls's theory of justice, and consequently in the work of his critics and defenders, but it can also be used more broadly to define and demarcate the political and to distinguish the public from the private. The success of a person's life depends on a number of factors, such as the social class into which the person is born, natural ability, and good or bad fortune. How society is organized has a direct impact on social class because the state can redistribute wealth and other goods, but political structures can also affect the extent to which the exploitation of natural ability has distributive consequences. For Rawls, the basic structure is the main concern—or primary subject —of justice. As examples of ...