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I am working on an exam question that is based on the fifth paragraph of this article.

The Lonely Crowd quickly became one of the defining works of the 1950s—a decade that, contrary to its reputation for intellectual blandness and timidity, was exceptionally rich in works of sharp and enduring social criticism. In September 1954, four years after the book’s appearance, Riesman appeared on the cover of Time magazine, the first social scientist ever to do so. His sober countenance was surrounded by figures representing the central concepts drawn from the pages of The Lonely Crowd. Beneath this curious and fanciful tableau was the identification of "Social Scientist David Riesman" and the pointed question: "What is the American Character?"

The question asks for a synonym of the bolded part and choices inclusiveness, complacency and integrity are given.

The answer given to this question is inclusiveness while I think complacency is better. I have looked at definition of the words, and the closest I can find for inclusiveness is enclosing and embracing; nonetheless I still can't relate it with the meaning of blandness and timidity.

I am not a native English speaker and I want to know if there is any nuance behind the word inclusiveness that intimates a similar meaning with blandness and timidity.

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    Of the three options given, complacency is the only one within a league of being applicable. In no sense does "inclusiveness" mean "bland and/or timid". I am a native speaker of American English. Maybe it's different for the Brits, but I'd be very surprised. You were just handed a crappy test (which is less unusual than you'd expect). – Dan Bron Oct 17 '16 at 23:51
  • I mean maybe the argument for "inclusiveness" is that it takes backbone to stand up to some idea and say "that's bullshit"? And that an undifferentiated melange of everyone's ideas is bland? That's a serious stretch for a test that's supposed to be about the nuts and bolts of English. – Dan Bron Oct 17 '16 at 23:52
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    It is not enough to just upvote Dan Bron's comment. Inclusiveness is just plain wrong as the answer. – ab2 Oct 17 '16 at 23:54
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Inclusiveness isn't even close. Integrity is an antonym. Complacency is the best match, particularly to timidity.

  • Complacency isn't even a very close match for timidity. Both might result in inaction but one is through smug satisfaction with an existing situation and the other through fear of consequences of action. – Spagirl Oct 18 '16 at 9:15

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