GRE vocabulary exercise 4

GRE vocabulary

Duration : 15 minutes 


Comprehension test - Contextual use of words

Identify the synonymous word / phrase for each underlined word in the passage below:

Concepts of justice and law, legitimacy of government, dignity of the individual, protection from oppressive or arbitrary rule and participation in the affairs of the community are found in every society.  The challenge of human rights is to identify the common denominators, rather than to admit the impossibility of universalism.

The objections reflect a false opposition between the primacy of the individual and the paramountcy of society.  Culture is too often cited as a defence against human rights by authoritarians, who crush culture when it suits them.  Which country can truly claim to be following its ‘traditional culture’ in pure form?  The societies of developing countries are not pristine; all have been externally influenced, both as a result of colonialism and through participation in modern inter-state relations.  You cannot follow the model of a ‘modern’ nation-state cutting across tribal boundaries and conventions, and then argue that tribal traditions should be applied to judge the human rights conduct of that modern state.

Culture is not sacrosanct, anyway.  It is constantly evolving in any living society, responding to internal and external stimuli.  There is much in every culture that societies naturally outgrow and reject.    That slavery was acceptable across the world for at least 2,000 years does not make it acceptable now.  The basic problem with cultural relativism is that it subsumes all members of a society under a framework they may disavow.  If dissenters within each culture are free to assert their individual rights – as, for example, Muslim women in our country have the right not to marry under Muslim Personal Law – then it is a different story.

Arbitrary rule





Cultural relativism




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