Political Science and International Relations (PSIR): OPTIONAL SUBJECT PROGRAMME

by Vajiram & Ravi

Political Science and International Relations (PSIR) as an optional subject has consistently produced high scores, making it a preferable subject for clearing UPSC CSE Mains with a comfortable margin. The two sections - Political Theory and Indian Politics, and Indian Politics and Government - collectively make up Paper I. Political theory, state theories, justice, equality, human rights, and democracy are the key topics covered in Political Theory and Indian Politics. The primary topics covered in Indian Government and Politics are Indian Nationalism, the Indian Constitution, Federalism, the Party system, etc.

Paper 2 of PSIR Optional subject is primarily composed of two sections: Comparative Politics and International Affairs, and India and the world. Globalisation, International Relations, Comparative Politics, Participation and Representation, and so forth make up the majority of the Comparative Politics and International Relations component. Foreign Policy, India and South Asia, India's Participation in NAM, UN system Global Centers of Power, etc., are the primary topics covered under India and the World.

Most notably, PSIR is a subject that is a highly relevant subject for Mains General Studies. The entire focus of General Studies Paper II is polity and governance. The selection of this UPSC optional subject will have some overlap with GS Paper I, GS Paper III, and GS Paper IV. Also, a question about politics or related issues is included in the essay paper. As a result, an aspirant who takes this optional subject will have something to write about in the Essay Paper regarding relevant issues. Especially in Paper II of this optional subject, a lot of the topics are connected to current affairs. As a result, this will undoubtedly aid in the preparation for current affairs.

About UPSC PSIR Optional

Optional subject plays an extremely crucial role in the final selection of the candidate. For PSIR optional, sustained interest in the optional and good comprehension skill of the candidate along with proper guidance with good quality study material, are the basic perquisites required. The graduation background of the candidate is not relevant for PSIR optional. Many engineering and other non-PSIR background candidates have performed exceptionally well in the UPSC exam. That is one of the reasons for the popularity of the PSIR optional.

Political Science and International Relations (PSIR) Optional Syllabus

Paper I

Political Theory and Indian Politics

1. Political Theory: meaning and approaches.

2. Theories of state : Liberal, Neo-liberal, Marxist, Pluiralist, post-colonial and Feminist.

3. Justice : Conceptions of justice with special reference to Rawl’s theory of justice and its communitarian critiques.

4. Equality : Social, political and economic; relationship between equality and freedom; Affirmative action.

5. Rights : Meaning and theories; different kinds of rights; Concept of Human Rights.

6. Democracy : Classical and contemporary theories; different models of democracy—representative, participatory and deliberative.

7. Concept of power : hegemony, ideology and legitimacy.

8. Political Ideologies : Liberalism, Socialism, Marxism, Fascism, Gandhism and Feminism.

9. Indian Political Thought: Dharamshastra, Arthashastra and Buddhist Traditions; Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Sri Aurobindo, M. K. Gandhi, B. R. Ambedkar, M. N. Roy.

10. Western Political Thought : Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, John S. Mill, Marx, Gramsci, Hannah Arendt.

Indian Government and Politics

1. Indian Nationalism:

(a) Political Strategies of India’s Freedom Struggle : Constitutionalism to mass Satyagraha, Non-cooperation, Civil Disobedience; Militant and Revolutionary Movements, Peasant and Workers Movements.
(b) Perspectives on Indian National Movement; Liberal, Socialist and Marxist; Radical Humanist and Dalit.

2. Making of the Indian Constitution: Legacies of the British rule; different social and political perspectives.

3. Salient Features of the Indian Constitution: The Preamble, Fundamental Rights and Duties, Directive Principles, Parliamentary System and Amendment Procedures; Judicial Review and Basic Structure doctrine.

4. (a) Principal Organs of the Union Government: Envisaged role and actual working of the Executive, Legislature and Supreme Court.
(b) Principal Organs of the State Government: Envisaged role and actual working of the Executive, Legislature and High Courts.

5. Grassroots Democracy : Panchayati Raj and Municipal Government; Significance of 73rd and 74th Amendments; Grassroot movements.

6. Statutory Institutions/Commissions: Election Commission, Comptroller and Auditor General, Finance Commission, Union Public Service Commission, National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, National Commission for Women; National Human Rights Commission, National Commission for Minorities, National Backward Classes Commission.

7. Federalism: Constitutional provisions; changing nature of centre-state relations; integrationist tendencies and regional aspirations; inter-state disputes.

8. Planning and Economic Development: Nehruvian and Gandhian perspectives; Role of planning and public sector; Green Revolution, land reforms and agrarian relations; liberalization and economic reforms.

9. Caste, Religion and Ethnicity in Indian Politics.

10. Party System: National and regional political parties, ideological and social bases of parties; Patterns of coalition politics; Pressure groups, trends in electoral behaviour; changing socio-economic profile of Legislators.

11. Social Movement: Civil liberties and human rights movements; women’s movements; environmentalist movements.

Paper II

Comparative Politics and International Relations

Comparative Political Analysis and International Politics

1. Comparative Politics : Nature and major approaches; Political economy and political sociology perspectives; Limitations of the comparative method.

2. State in Comparative Perspective : Characteristics and changing nature of the State in capitalist and socialist economies, and advanced industrial and developing societies.

3. Politics of Representation and Participation : Political parties, pressure groups and social movements in advanced industrial and developing societies.

4. Globalisation : Responses from developed and developing societies.

5. Approaches to the Study of International Relations : Idealist, Realist, Marxist, Functionalist and Systems theory.

6. Key Concepts in International Relations : National interest, security and power; Balance of power and deterrence; Transational actors and collective security; World capitalist economy and globalisation.

7. Changing International Political Order :

(a) Rise of super powers; Strategic and ideological Bipolarity, arms race and cold war; Nuclear threat;
(b) Non-aligned Movement : Aims and achievements.
(c) Collapse of the Soviet Union; Unipolarity and American hegemony; Relevance of non-alignment in the contemporary world.

8. Evolution of the International Economic System : From Brettonwoods to WTO; Socialist economies and the CMEA (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance); Third World demand for new international economic order; Globalisation of the world economy.

9. United Nations : Envisaged role and actual record; Specialized UN agencies—aims and functioning; need for UN reforms.

10. Regionalisation of World Politics : EU, ASEAN, APEC, AARC, NAFTA.

11. Contemporary Global Concerns : Democracy, human rights, environment, gender justice terrorism, nuclear proliferation.

India and the World

1. Indian Foreign Policy : Determinants of foreign policy; the institutions of policy-making; Continuity and change.

2. India’s Contribution to the Non-Alignment Movement Different phases; Current role.

3. India and South Asia :

(a) Regional Co-operation : SAARC-past performance and future prospects.
(b) South Asia as a Free Trade Area.
(c) India’s “Look East” policy.
(d) Impediments to regional co-operation : River water disputes; illegal cross border migration; Ethnic conflicts and insurgencies; Border disputes.

4. India and the Global South : Relations with Africa and Latin America; Leadership role in the demand for NIEO and WTO negotiations.

5. India and the Global Centres of Power : USA, EU, Japan, China and Russia.

6. India and the UN System: Role in UN Peace-keeping; Demand for Permanent Seat in the Security Council.

7. India and the Nuclear Question : Changing perceptions and policy.

8. Recent developments in Indian Foreign Policy : India’s position on the recent crises in Afghanistan, Iraq and West Asia, growing relations with US and Isreal; Vision of a new world order.

Best Books in Political Science for the UPSC Mains

Paper I – Reading List


  • Political theory – An introduction to political theory by OP Gauba (8th edition)
  • Political theory by Andrew Heywood
  • Western Political Thought: From Socrates to the Age of Ideology by Brian R. Nelson
  • Western Political Thought – Subroto Mukherjee and Sushila Ramawsamy
  • Political thought in modern India / edited by Thomas Pantham, Kenneth L. Deutsch
  • Indian Political Thought – IGNOU MA booklet on political thought 


  • Indian Government and Politics – Oxford handbook on Indian politics (edited) By Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Niraja Jayal
  • The Oxford Handbook of the Indian Constitution by Sujit Choudhry, Madhav Khosla, Pratap Banu Mehta
  • Indian government and politics – By Bidyut Chakraborty and Rajendra Pandey
  • by AS Narang
  • Selected articles in The Hindu and TheIndian Express, and other reputed journals like EPW etc

Paper II - Reading List

Section A: Comparative Politics and International Relations

  • “The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations” by John Baylis, Steve Smith and Patricia Owens.
  • “Global Politics” by Andrew Heywood.
  • “The Oxford Handbook of International Relations” by Christian Reus-Smit and Duncan Snidal.

Section B: India and the World

  •  “Does the Elephant Dance: Contemporary Indian Foreign Policy” by David. M. Malone.
  • “India’s Foreign Policy since Independence” by V P. Dutt.
  • “Challenge and Strategy: Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy.” by Rajiv Sikri.
  • IDSA website should be followed for articles.
  • MEA website should be regularly followed for updates and articles.
  • IR editorials should be followed in The Hindu and TheIndian Express.
  • The Oxford Handbook of Indian Foreign Policy” by David M. Malone, C Raja Mohan and Srinath Raghvan.
  • “India’s Foreign Policy: Retrospect and Prospect” by Sumit Ganguly.
  • “Foreign Policy of India” by V N. Khanna.

Benefits of choosing PSIR Optional

  • The syllabus of PSIR is inter-linked with General Studies Syllabus and has many convergences with GS Papers I, II, III and IV. Thus, there is a spillover of optional in GS, which gives PSIR students a competitive edge over their competitors.
  • Every year there are several Essay topics in the paper related with the PSIR syllabus. PSIR background of political thought and IR greatly helps in acing the essay exam.
  • PSIR is extremely helpful in Personality Test/Interview.
  • Comprehensiveness and greater Predictability in Question Pattern make it the 'Most Suitable Subject'for Students with Science (Engineering and Medicine) and Commerce Background.

Special Features of PSIR Optional Coaching

The following are the special features of our PSIR optional classroom programme:

  • Our aim is to provide a ONE STOP SOLUTION for students for optional preparation.
  • Strategic Classroom Preparation with special focus on Conceptual clarity and understanding of trends and issues.
  • FOCUS ON LUCID EXPLANATION INSTEAD OF MERE DICTATIONwith "Exam Focused Approach" that will inculcate in students the competency to deal with the unexpected questions.
  • Concise, Well-researched and Exam ready study materialon each and every topic. 
  • Comprehensive and timely coverage of syllabus
  • We focus on inter-linkages among both optional papers, Paper I and II.
  • Personalised Guidance and Mentorship for the benefit of students, especially from non-political science backgrounds.
  • Interactive class to bring out the best in student
  • Holistic Training in the Art of Answer Writing to improve Writing Skills with precision and brevity. Regular answer writing practice for students.
  • Classroom Sessions of 2.5 hours daily, six days a week, total 300+ hours of Classroom Teaching and Discussions.
  • Updated Extracts from Journals, Newspapers and Magazines relevant to dynamic portions of the syllabus, especially the IGP & IR sections. 

FAQs on UPSC PSIR Optional

What is the success rate in UPSC with an optional subject of political science?

As per the UPSC Annual report 2021-22, Political Science & International Relations was the most preferred subject among the optional subjects chosen by the candidates, followed by Geography and Sociology. In the 2020 Main examination, 1863 wrote the Main exam with PSIR optional with 154 candidates being recommended in the final list which is the highest among all optionals. The success rate was 8.3%. This trend has persisted over the past several years.

Is political science a scoring subject for UPSC?

PSIR is the best performing optional in the changed scenario with Predictability in Question Pattern. One can score 60 to 70 percent of 750 Marks in Main Examination (PSIR + Essay) with basic understanding of PSIR. Besides, PSIR is helpful in Prelims as well as Personality Test/Interview.

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