As is well known, the semantics of equality entered western intellectual discourse only as a result of the writings of the French Philosophes, whereas previously the acknowledged universal paradigm had been that all human beings were created unequal. Thus there were those who were “privileged” by birth, and those who were not.
Indeed, in passing, it was only Buddhism in India that could be said to have genuinely offered a world view wherein equality made no exceptions. Some reason why it became fatally important for Brahminism to eject it at all costs.
The new European classes whose material interests were thus enunciated by the emancipatory writings of the Enlightenment claimed, as Marx was to note, that they represented not just their own interests but those of all “humanity.” A classic example of false consciousness, since, as Marx theorized, every new class that challenges older social formations needs such universalist claims to garner sufficient clout for the overthrow.