Optional Syllabus

Sociology Optional Syllabus

How to prepare Sociology Optional for UPSC | Strategy, Syllabus & Booklist for Sociology Optional

Sociology optional is one of the highly popular optional subjects among the UPSC aspirants owing to its short and crisp syllabus, ease of understanding, and availability of good resources. Anu Kumari (AIR 2 in IAS Exam 2017) is one of the most famous toppers who had Sociology as an optional subject.

Moreover, sociology optional has gained such immense popularity owing to several reasons including:

  • Consistency: This subject has been highly consistent among the top rankers over the years.
  • Scoring Potential: It offers great scoring potential as one can easily score 300+ marks with decent writing practice.
  • Relevance to the job role: The theoretical knowledge of the subject has huge applied potential. It introduces the aspirant with the societal norms and practices making him efficient in understanding and evaluating the policy decisions. It involves the study of human society in detail which is very much relevant to the job role.

Syllabus of Sociology Optional

Sociology Optional syllabus for UPSC Main Examination is divided into Paper-1 and Paper-2. While Paper-1 comprises of the core sociological concepts, Paper-2 largely deals with Indian society. We’ve here tabulated the topic-wise sociology optional syllabus for your convenience.

Paper 1: Fundamentals of Sociology

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 labor, 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 sexual division oflabour.
  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.

Paper 2: Indian Society: Structure and Change

Introducing Indian Society Perspectives on the study of Indian society
  1. Indology (GS. Ghurye).
  2. Structural functionalism (M N Srinivas).
  3. Marxist sociology (A R Desai).
Impact of colonial rule on Indian society
  1. Social background of Indian nationalism.
  2. Modernization of Indian tradition.
  3. Protests and movements during the colonial period.
  4. Social reforms.
Social Structure Rural and Agrarian Social Structure
  1. The idea of Indian village and village studies.
  2. Agrarian social structure – evolution of land tenure system, land reforms
Caste System
  1. Perspectives on the study of caste systems: GS Ghurye, M N Srinivas, Louis Dumont, Andre Beteille.
  2. Features of caste system.
  3. 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.
Social Classes in India
  1. Agrarian class structure.
  2. Industrial class structure.
  3. Middle classes in India
Systems of Kinship in India
  1. Lineage and descent in India.
  2. Types of kinship systems.
  3. Family and marriage in India.
  4. Household dimensions of the family.
 Religion and Society
  1. Religious communities in India.
  2. Problems of religious minorities.
  3. Patriarchy, entitlements and sexual division of labor
Social Changes in India Visions of Social Change in India
  1. Idea of development planning and mixed economy.
  2. Constitution, law and social change.
  3. Education and social change.
Rural and Agrarian transformation in India
  1. Programmes of rural development, Community Development Programme, cooperatives, poverty alleviation schemes.
  2. Green revolution and social change.
  3. Changing modes of production in Indian agriculture .
  4. 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. Informal sector, child labour.
  5. Slums and deprivation in urban areas.


Politics and Society
  1. Nation, democracy and citizenship.
  2. Political parties, pressure groups, social and political elite.
  3. Regionalism and decentralization of power.
  4. Secularization


Social Movements in Modern India
  1. Peasants and farmers movements.
  2. Women’s movement.
  3. Backward classes & Dalit movement.
  4. Environmental movements.
  5. Ethnicity and Identity movements.


Population Dynamics
  1. Population size, growth, composition and distribution.
  2. Components of population growth: birth, death, migration.
  3. Population policy and family planning.
  4. Emerging issues: ageing, sex ratios, child and infant mortality, reproductive health.


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.

Booklist for Sociology Optional

Sociology Optional is one of the popular optional subjects among UPSC aspirants owing to its crisp syllabus. The resources for this optional is also widely available. Below is the paper-wise booklist for sociology optional:

Booklist for Sociology Optional Paper 1:

  • Introduction to Sociology by Anthony Giddens
  • Sociological Theory by George Ritzer
  • Sociology Themes and Perspectives by Haralambos & Holborn
  • A Dictionary of Sociology by John Scott
  • Sociological Thought by Francis Abraham and John Henry Morgan
  • An Introduction to Political Theory by O P Gauba

Booklist for Sociology Optional Paper 2:

  • Social Change in Modern India by M N Srinivas
  • Caste Its Twentieth Century Avatar by M N Srinivas
  • Handbook of Indian Sociology by Veena Das
  • Indian Society: Themes and Social Issues by Nadeem Hasnain
  • Modernization of Indian Tradition by Yogendra Singh
  • Rural Sociology by S.L Doshi and P.C Jain
  • Social Background of Indian Nationalism by A R Desai

Note: You do not need to read these books cover to cover. Refer to the syllabus and read only the syllabus-specific topics. You can prepare short notes for ease of understanding and quick revision.

How to prepare Sociology Optional For UPSC?

Sociology Optional is a preferred choice among many UPSC aspirants owing to its generic syllabus. However, there are various theories that can be extremely difficult to understand without expert guidance. Hence, first and foremost, it is important to seek external guidance if you do not have any mentor or senior who can guide you with the subject. Thereafter, following approach can be used to enhance your preparation:

  • Analyse the syllabus carefully: First and foremost, it is important to mind-map the syllabus carefully. Go through the entire syllabus once or twice to understand the topics that you need to cover from each part of the syllabus.
  • Start with NCERTs: Sociology is introduced in Class XIth for the first time. Hence, the NCERTs of Class XIth and XIIth will prove to be extremely beneficial for basic understanding of the syllabus. Go through the NCERTs once or twice to understand the basic concepts of the subject.
  • Glance through previous year papers: Glance through the previous year papers to understand what kind of questions are being asked in the syllabus. Thereafter go through the answer scripts of toppers’ to understand how to write the answers.
  • Complete the syllabus: Next, refer to the standard books to complete the syllabus topic-by-topic. Make small notes for all the topics that are quick to revise.
  • Revision and Answer-writing: Once you have completed about 60-70% of the syllabus, start with answer-writing practice. Start with answering the previous year questions and then start with mock tests.
  • Full-Length Tests: Writing full-length tests is extremely important to master time management. You should have a practice of attempting all the questions in the 3 hours time limit. Hence, make sure you write full-length tests in a simulated environment.

This is a brief overview of the UPSC Sociology Optional syllabus, book list and preparation strategy. If you’re still on the fence about choosing an optional, you can check out how to choose UPSC Optional subject in the linked article.

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