@Mr Fight the Power,
Mr. Fight the Power wrote:
Reciprocity and fairness is innately expected in many species, not just certain cultures and political structures.
The thing is, though, it seems we people (for better or worse) are more likely to cast off the idea of universability. You were correct when you said that rights depended on recognition, but while everybody may feel they deserve justice and protection of law if they abide by it, they can reasonably hold the position that others do not merit the same treatment. In this case, equal rights can consistently break down.
It is a fragile arrangement since people naturally love peace, and this gives those with a synical view of the relationship called rights a real advantage, since rights can be turned into wealth, and actually represent wealth. And they don't just break down, but evolve under pressure until people find they have to secure their rights once again. I have been reading about the English constitution, and it is remarkable that the nobles sought guaratees of rights fromthe king, and the peasants sought guarantees of rights from the nobles; but all agreements made under duress were later denied by both king and nobles, even the great charter. And the black death, which may have been the greatest natural disaster to hit Europe was great in that it set free the capital of generations, and reduced the supply of labor, increasing its cost of labor as a result so that it was made illegal to charge more than before the plague for labor, and yet labor increased in rights and in wages none the less. And this is good, because people do not waste what they must pay a fair price for, and so all of society advanced on fewer legs.
To put all in perspective, The Anglo Saxon king gained rights at the expense of his people and weakened his people before Viking, and then Norman. The Normans did the same so that England survived on the passivity and incompetance of Europe. There is also another factor. Feudal England was not deprived of rights all together. There was some social mobility that in time could make a tradesman the equal of a lord, so there was never a general support for and demand for rights. If you were ambitious and able you could go after rights and have them. Even Bastards had rights, since a bastard villian, which was little more than a slave, by being born illegitimate was considered free born, and not obligated to become a slave like his parents.