Everything about Sociology  Optional for UPSC IAS 2020/2021

The civil service examination conducted by the union public service commission is considered to be one of the toughest examinations in India. It is a long rigorous journey consisting mainly of a preliminary examination, the mains examination and an interview round. In this examination, the optional subject consists of 500 marks and hence becomes a very important part of the journey. Therefore before choosing a subject as an optional one needs to keep a few points in mind. Sociology Optional is one of the best and popular optional that one can choose for the civil service examination.

  1. Interest in the subject
  2. Length of the syllabus
  3. Success ratio
  4. Availability of study materials
  5. Scoring potential
  6. Relevance to civil service

So, these are the criteria that one needs to focus on while choosing their optional subject.

Every year the number of candidates who opt for sociology as optional varies from approximately 1500 to 2500 highlighting the popularity and easiness of the subject. The subject is not only popular among the students from the humanities background but largely among science, engineering and students from various other backgrounds. Looking at the success ratio, around 85 to 240 candidates get selected every year.

Sociology optional is a systematic study and understanding of society, human social behaviour and social groups. It is the science of society. Some of the advantages of choosing sociology as an optional are:

  • Short Syllabus – The syllabus of sociology is short compared to the other subjects.
  • Scoring Potential – It is easy to understand and scoring too.
  • Availability of study materials – study materials are easily available in both soft copies and hard copies.
  • Overlap – the syllabus overlaps with all GS papers and also helps with the essay paper which normally has at least one topic based on social issues.
  • Relevance to civil service – its social issues matter to a person he or she will find it interesting. It also helps to understand society and the functioning of it.

There are also some limitations like:

  • The subject demands the candidates to be well aware of current affairs.
  • The subject requires a clear understanding and the answers are open to interpretation therefore one needs to think before writing.
  • A genuine interest in the subject is highly recommended




  • Sociology – The Discipline:
    1. Modernity and social changes in Europe and the emergence of Sociology
    2. Scope of the subject and comparison with other social sciences.
    3. Sociology and common sense.
  • Sociology as Science:
    1. Science, scientific method and critique.
    2. Major theoretical strands of research methodology.
    3. Positivism and its critique.
    4. Fact value and objectivity.
    5. Non-positivist methodologies.
  • Research Methods and Analysis:
    1. Qualitative and quantitative methods.
    2. Techniques of data collection.
    3. Variables, sampling, hypothesis, reliability and validity.
  • Sociological Thinkers:
    1. Karl Marx – Historical materialism, mode of production, alienation, class struggle.
    2. Emile Durkheim – Division of labour, social fact, suicide, religion and society.
    3. Max Weber – Social action, ideal types, authority, bureaucracy, the protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism.
    4. Talcott Parsons – Social system, pattern variables.
    5. Robert K. Merton – Latent and manifest functions, conformity and deviance, reference groups.
    6. Mead – Self and identity.
  • Stratification and Mobility :
    1. Concepts – equality, inequality, hierarchy, exclusion, poverty and deprivation.
    2. Theories of social stratification – Structural functionalist theory, Marxist theory, Weberian theory.
    3. Dimensions – Social stratification of class, status groups, gender, ethnicity and race.
    4. Social mobility – open and closed systems, types of mobility, sources and causes of mobility.
  • Works and Economic Life :
    1. Social organization of work in different types of society – slave society, feudal society, industrial capitalist society.
    2. Formal and informal organization of work.
    3. Labour and society.
  • Politics and Society:
    1. Sociological theories of power.
    2. Power elite, bureaucracy, pressure groups and political parties.
    3. Nation, state, citizenship, democracy, civil society, ideology.
    4. Protest, agitation, social movements, collective action, revolution.
  • Religion and Society :
    1. Sociological theories of religion.
    2. Types of religious practices: animism, monism, pluralism, sects, cults.
    3. Religion in modern society: religion and science, secularization, religious revivalism, fundamentalism.
  • Systems of Kinship:
    1. Family, household, marriage.
    2. Types and forms of family.
    3. Lineage and descent.
    4. Patriarchy and the sexual division of labour.
    5. Contemporary trends.
  • Social Change in Modern Society:
    1. Sociological theories of social change.
    2. Development and dependency.
    3. Agents of social change.
    4. Education and social change.
    5. Science, technology and social change.





  1. Introducing Indian Society :
    1. Perspectives on the Study of Indian Society
  2. Indology (G.S. Shure).
  3. Structural functionalism (M. N. Srinivas).
  4. Marxist sociology (A. R. Desai).
    1. Impact of colonial rule on Indian society :
  5. The social background of Indian nationalism.
  6. Modernization of Indian tradition.
  7. Protests and movements during the colonial period.
  8. Social reforms.
  9. Social Structure:
  10. Rural and Agrarian Social Structure:
  11. The idea of Indian village and village studies.
  12. Agrarian social structure— the evolution of land tenure system, land reforms.
  13. Caste System:
  14. Perspectives on the study of caste systems: G. S. Ghurye, M. N. Srinivas, Louis Dumont, Andre Beteille.
  15. Features of the caste system.
  16. Untouchability-forms and perspectives
  • Tribal Communities in India:
  1. Definitional problems.
  2. Geographical spread
  3. Colonial policies and tribes.
  4. Issues of integration and autonomy.
  5. Social Classes in India:
  6. Agrarian class structure.
  7. Industrial class structure.
  8. Middle classes in India.
  9. Systems of Kinship in India:
  10. Lineage and descent in India.
  11. Types of kinship systems.
  12. Family and marriage in India.
  13. Household dimensions of the family.
  14. Patriarchy, entitlements and sexual division of labour.
  15. Religion and Society :
  16. Religious communities in India.
  17. Problems of religious minorities.
  18. Social Changes in India:
  19. Visions of Social Change in India:
  20. Idea of development planning and mixed economy.
  21. Constitution, law and social change.
  22. Education and social change.
  23. Rural and Agrarian Transformation in India:
  24. Programmes of rural development, Community Development Programme, cooperatives, poverty alleviation schemes.
  25. Green revolution and social change.
  26. Changing modes of production in Indian agriculture.
  27. Problems of rural labour, bondage, migration.
  • Industrialization and Urbanisation in India:
  1. Evolution of modern industry in India.
  2. Growth of urban settlements in India.
  3. Working-class: structure, growth, class mobilization.
  4. The informal sector, child labour.
  5. Slums and deprivation in urban areas.
  6. Politics and Society :
  7. Nation, democracy and citizenship.
  8. Political parties, pressure groups, social and political elite.
  9. Regionalism and decentralization of power.
  10. Social Movements in Modern India :
  11. a) Peasants and farmers movements.
  12. b) Women’s movement.
  13. c) Backward classes & Dalit movements.
  14. d) Environmental movements.
  15. e) Ethnicity and Identity movements.
  16. vi) Population Dynamics:
  17. Population size, growth, composition and distribution.
  18. Components of population growth: birth, death, migration.
  19. Population Policy and family planning.
  20. Emerging issues: ageing, sex ratios, child and infant mortality, reproductive health.

vii)          Challenges of Social Transformation :

  1. Crisis of development: displacement, environmental problems and sustainability.
  2. Poverty, deprivation and inequalities.
  3. Violence against women.
  4. Caste conflicts.
  5. Ethnic conflicts, communalism, religious revivalism.
  6. Illiteracy and disparities in education.


Paper 1 deals with Fundamentals of Sociology. Having a good and clear understanding of concepts is very important to crack this paper. Sticking to the theory of particular sociologists and linking the various theories is vital. If you have conceptual clarity, the paper is easy and manageable.

Linking each concept put forward by various thinkers to the present scenario is the key to scoring good marks. Don’t forget to mention your point of view in the conclusion of each answer.

Paper 2   high on relevance and needs to be on point. This paper deals more with Indian society. The questions are direct and often get repeated which makes the paper high on scoring and is predictable. Your point of view is always welcomed at the end of any answer along with case studies.

Going through previous years question paper is a must.


  1. Start with the NCERTs if you’re from non-sociology background to have a clear concept or refer to C. N. Shankar Rao book.
  2. Have notes ready for each topic
  3. Revise all topics as much as you can and try to relate them with the present scenario
  4. Go through the previous year question papers.


  1. Sociology – Anthony Giddens
  2. Sociological Theory – Ritzer George
  3. Sociology – Haralambos & Holborn
  4. Oxford Dictionary Of Sociology
  5. Sociological Thought – M Francis Abraham and John Henry Morgan
  6. Political Theory – O P Gauba
  7. Social Change in India – M N Srinivas
  8. Caste Its Twentieth Century Avatar – M N Srinivas
  9. Handbook of Indian Sociology – Veena Das
  10. Indian Society and Culture – Nadeem Hasnain
  11. Modernization of Indian Tradition – Yogendra Singh
  12. Persistence and Change in Tribal India – M.V. Rao
  13. Rural Sociology – S L Doshi
  14. Social Background of Indian Nationalism – A R Desai

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