The key question for the history of universal human rights is why
it took so long for them to become established as law. The main
theme of this book is that the attainment of universal human rights
required heroic struggle, first by individuals and then by
ever-increasing numbers of people who supported those views against
the major historical trends. Universal human rights are won from a
hostile majority by outsiders. The chapters in the book describe
the milestones in that struggle. The history presented in this book
shows that, in most places at most times, even today, for concrete
material reasons a great many people oppose the notion that all
individuals have equal rights. The dominant history since the 1600s
has been that of a mass struggle for the national-democratic state.
This book argues that this struggle for national rights has been
practically and logically contradictory with the struggle for
universal rights. It would only be otherwise if there were free
migration and access to citizenship on demand by anybody. This has
never been the case. Rather than drawing only on European sources
and being limited to major literary figures, this book is written
from the Gramscian perspective that ideas mean little until they
are taken up as mass ideologies. It draws on sources from Asia and
America and on knowledge about mass attitudes, globally and
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