The paper places the innovative approach of the UN-guiding principles on business and human rights into the context of the great lines of development of legal culture. Recognition of equal dignity of all humans was claimed by the revolutions of the late 18th century. This may be considered as the most substantial turn in legal thinking about humanity. In the following centuries this concept was implemented step-by-step, focused on the Nation-State. The discourse evolved in public law, neglecting the fact that since pre-colonial times European businesses caused major harm to human dignity all over the earth. In parallel to the successful ring-fencing of State powers, the awareness is growing that business profits are unacceptable when drawn from abusing human dignity. In this perspective, holding business responsible for the respect of human rights appears as an adjustment improving the coherency of the legal order, closing a gap and opening the path for a new generation of public law.