Eighteenth-century French men and women were aware of, experienced or on the contrary criticised an endless number of more or less flagrant inequalities. Knowledge of all these rules of subordination was part of their culture, absorbed from childhood and indispensable to live in their society. Many situations which, from hindsight, we would define as exclusions from rights were above all elemental ground-rules which contemporaries knew made up the social terrain. Between privileges and properties, rights and duties due to others from each person and considered as being natural, feudal or contractual in origin, every individual would have had difficulty in forming a clear image of his or her position with regard to rights, but it was the resolution of several major issues which contributed most to that. Besides, daily reality was the individualisation of older juridical relationships and the acceleration of the circulation of goods and people. The appearance of new types of relations between humans for the production of their material needs was all the more surprising because they were the result of measures apparently thought through in a perfectly reasonable manner which unleashed changes which were totally foreign to the intentions of their initiators, but with implications for the entire population. The hopes of freeing oneself, concludes the author, were not enough in themselves and circumstances overthrew them, delayed them or in the end had mixed outcomes.