Polity plays a very crucial role in the journey of the UPSC exam and if you are from Science background, then it seems like a challenge to understand. And if aspirants choose to go with PSIR as an optional, then that’s the courageous decision for them because PSIR is not only Political Science but a blend of Political Science and International Relations. This article is about how to make a perfect and smart strategy to win the battle of UPSC with PSIR as an optional? For this, first we have to understand the optional syllabus of PSIR.
The UPSC allows a choice of optional subjects out of a list of 48 subjects. Of these, a few optional subjects have a large overlap with the syllabus for General Studies. And PSIR is one of them. It overlap with GS paper 2.
PSIR, as it is commonly known, is one subject for which a huge amount of study material is available. The syllabus consists of topics related to the freedom struggle and Indian politics, the Constitution of India, the international economic system and trade, international organisations, India’s foreign policy and peacekeeping among others. These topics are also part of the General Studies syllabus.
Pros of Taking Political Science as an Optional
- Indian Polity, which is a large section of the Political Science Optional paper for the Mains, is already covered in the UPSC Prelims. This means that when aspirants are preparing for the Mains, they already have a chunk of IAS Political Science syllabus covered during the preparation of Prelims.
- The basic concepts and terminologies of Political Science are very much a part of an informed citizen’s daily life. Even if someone does not have a background in political science or is not well versed with the subject at all, they can catch up simply by reading the newspaper or watching the news.
- Many topics of UPSC Political Science Optional syllabus are repeated in both papers and have interrelated context, like Marxism, Democracy Issues, Human Rights etc, which means that the time and effort taken might not be as much as it seems.
- Having a grasp of Political Science will help in the preparation of Current Affairs.
- Concepts like governance, bureaucracy, international relations or social issues like feminism are the interviewer’s favourite topics to ask questions on. With this subject as optional, candidates will have a clearer idea of the fundamentals and form their answer on a solid base instead of giving vague, unimpressive answers.
Political Science Optional Syllabus for IAS
- A) Political Theory and Indian Politics
- Political theory meaning and approaches
- Theories of the state: Liberal, Pluralist, Marxist, Neoliberal, Post-colonial and feminist.
- Justice: Conceptions of justice with reference to Rawl’s theory of justice; communitarian critiques.
- Equality: Relationship between equality and freedom; Political, Social, and economic; Affirmative action.
- Rights: Meaning and theories; the concept of Human Rights; different kinds of rights.
- Democracy: Contemporary and Classical theories; different models of democracy – deliberative, participatory and representative.
- The concept of power, legitimacy, ideology and Hegemony.
- Political Ideologies: Liberalism, Marxism, Fascism, Feminism, Gandhism, and Socialism.
- Indian Political Thought: Arthashastra, Dharamshastra, and Buddhist traditions; Sri Aurobindo, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, B.R. Ambedkar, M.K. Gandhi, M.N. Roy.
- Western Political Thought: Plato, Machiavelli, John S. Mill, Aristotle, Locke, Hobbes, Marx, Gramsci and Hannah Arendt.
- B) Indian Government and politics
- Indian Nationalism:
- A) Perspectives on Indian National Movement: Socialist, Liberal, and Marxist; Radical humanist and Dalit.
- B) Political Strategies of India’s Freedom Struggle: Civil Disobedience, constitutionalism to mass Satyagraha, Non-cooperation; Peasant and workers’ movements, militant and revolutionary movements.
- Making of the Indian Constitution: Legacies of the British rule; Different political and social perspectives.
- Salient Features of the Indian Constitution: Fundamental Rights and Duties, The Preamble, Directive Principles; Judicial Review and Basic Structure doctrine, Parliamentary System and Amendment Procedures.
- A) Principal Organs of the Union Government: Envisaged role and actual working of the Legislature, Executive, and Supreme Court.
- B) Principal Organs of the State Government: Envisaged role and actual working of the Legislature, Executive, and High Courts.
- Grassroots Democracy: Significance of 73rd and 74th Amendments; Panchayati Raj and Municipal Government; Grassroot movements.
- Statutory Institutions/ Commissions: Comptroller, Election Commission, and Auditor General, Union Public Service Commission, Finance Commission, National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Women; National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, National Human Rights Commission, National Backward Classes Commission, National Commission for Minorities.
- Federalism: Changing nature of centre-state relations; Constitutional provisions; integrationist tendencies and regional aspirations; inter-state disputes.
- Planning and Economic Development: the role of planning and public sector; Nehruvian and Gandhian perspectives; land reforms and agrarian relations; Green Revolution, liberalization and economic reforms.
- Religion, Caste, and Ethnicity in Indian Politics.
- Party System: Ideological and social bases of parties; National and regional political parties, Pressure groups, trends in electoral behaviour; patterns of coalition politics; changing the socio-economic profile of Legislators.
- Social Movements: Women’s movements; Civil liberties and human rights movements; environmentalist movements
- A) Comparative Politics and International Relations
- Comparative Politics: Political economy and political sociology perspectives; Nature and major approaches; limitations of the comparative method.
- State in comparative perspective: Advanced industrial and developing societies, Characteristics and changing nature of the State in socialist and capitalist economies.
- Politics of Representation and Participation: Pressure groups, Political parties, and social movements in advanced industrial and developing societies.
- Globalization: Responses from developing and developed societies.
- Approaches to the Study of International Relations: Realist, Idealist, Functionalist, Marxist, and Systems theory.
- Key concepts in International Relations: Balance of power and deterrence; Security, National interest, and power; World capitalist economy and globalization; Transnational actors and collective security.
- Changing International Political Order:
- A) Rise of superpowers; arms race and Cold War; strategic and ideological Bipolarity, nuclear threat;
- B) Non-aligned movement: Achievements and Aims;
- C) Unipolarity and American hegemony; Collapse of the Soviet Union; relevance of non-alignment in the contemporary world.
- Evolution of the International Economic System: Socialist economies and the CMEA (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance); From Brettonwoods to WTO; Globalization of the world economy; Third World demand for new international economic order.
- United Nations: specialized UN agencies-aims and functioning; Envisaged role and actual record; the need for UN reforms.
14. Regionalisation of World Politics: SAARC, ASEAN, EU, APEC, NAFTA.
15. Contemporary Global Concerns: Gender justice, Human rights, Democracy, nuclear proliferation, environment, terrorism.
16. B) India and the World
17. Indian Foreign Policy: Institutions of policy-making; Determinants of foreign policy; continuity and change.
18. India’s Contribution to the Non-Alignment Movement: Current role; Different phases;
19. India and South Asia:
20.A) South Asia as a Free Trade Area.
21. B) Regional Co-operation: SAARC – future prospects and past performance.
22. C) Impediments to regional co-operation: illegal cross-border migration; river water disputes; ethnic conflicts and insurgencies; border disputes.
23. D) India’s “Look East” policy.
24. India and the Global South: Leadership role in the demand for NIEO and WTO negotiations, Relations with Africa and Latin America.
25. India and the Global Centres of Power: EU, China, USA, Japan, and Russia.
26. India and the UN System: Demand for Permanent Seat in the Security Council; Role in UN Peace-keeping.
27. India and the Nuclear Question: Changing policy and perceptions.
28. Recent developments in Indian Foreign policy: Growing relations with US and Israel; India’s position on the recent crisis in West Asia, Afghanistan and Iraq, the vision of new world order.
The PSIR syllabus is very useful even after clearing the IAS exam as a large number of concepts can be used while working in the government. Apart from this, many candidates would find political science very interesting as it helps them clear the UPSC Civil Services Exam.
Here is a summarised strategy to cover the PSIR syllabus UPSC for the IAS aspirants that has been followed and recommended by previous high rankers of the subject.
Here is a summarized strategy to cover the PSIR syllabus UPSC for the IAS aspirants that has been followed and recommended by previous high rankers of the subject.
* Paper I has four distinct segments in its first section: Political Theory, Indian Political Thought, Western Political Thought and Political Ideologies. There are multiple Political Science books for IAS to choose from to cover these portions. However, many top rankers have referred to O. P. Gauba for studying political theories. Heywood’s Political Theory is also very helpful for the same.
* P. Gauba’s book is a natural choice for Indian Political Thought, as well as V. R. Mehta. The very important portions of B. R. Ambedkar and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan are missing from the books, which one can study from Ramchandra Guha’s book or IGNOU PDF Political Science Optional notes.
* For Western Political Thought, Brian Nelson is a good choice. Otherwise, there is enough content on the internet to give the aspirants a basic idea of the same.
* Heywood’s Political Ideologies is once again is a favoured choice for the segment. Gandhism can be studied from Prasad and Roy’s Indian Political Thought.
* In the second section, which is Indian Government and Politics, one can follow Laxmikanth for Constitution related topics, Ramchandra Guha for the important names of Indian politics and Bipin Chandra for topics on Indian Nationalism.
* But the most important part of this section is the knowledge of current events and affairs, and thus the essential source of study material is the daily newspaper. Keeping up to date with the columns of The Hindu and Times of India (in paper) or Indian Express and India Today (online) will be of immense help.
* For International Relations in Paper II, Globalisation of World Politics is a great book to refer, thanks to the immaculate content and explanatory illustrations. V. K. Malhotra’s book is also a good addition to this section.
* Comparative Political Analysis is best studied from IGNOU Political Science notes for IAS, although there are other books if candidates prefer that.
* The second segment of Paper II, Indian Foreign Policy is explained well in David Malone’s book or at least the introductory part. For thorough reading, Rajiv Sikri’s book is an excellent option. Once again, keeping up with international news from top standard sources is something that the aspirants should follow like a gospel. The Diplomat, The Economist and Project Syndicate, are A class websites for the same, as stated by many toppers of Pol Science Optional.
UPSC Political Science Optional Books
Here is a list of Political Science Optional books for both the papers of UPSC mains, as well as some additional reading suggestions.
PSIR Paper I Books
|Name of the Book||Name of the Author|
|Political Theory||Andrew Heywood|
|An Introduction to Political Theory||O. P. Gauba|
|Indian Political Thought: Theme and Thinkers||Mahendra Prasad and Himanshu Roy|
|Foundations of Indian Political Thought||V. R. Mehta|
|Political Theory: An Introduction||Bhargava and Acharya|
|Politics in India||Rajni Kothari|
PSIR Paper II Books
|Name of the Book||Name of the Author|
|Does the Elephant Dance? Contemporary Indian Foreign Policy||David Malone|
|International Organisations, Conferences and Treaties||Spectrum (Publisher)|
|Global Politics||Andrew Heywood|
|India’s Foreign Policy||V. P. Dutta|
|Challenge and Strategy: Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy||Rajiv Sikri|
|The Globalization of World Politics||Baylis, Smith and Owens|