UPSC Sociology Syllabus - Sociology Optional Syllabus PDF for Paper 1 and 2

by Vajiram & Ravi

UPSC Sociology Syllabus: Being one of the 48 optional subjects in the UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam, It consists of two papers, Paper 1 and Paper 2, each with 250 marks. Paper 1 consists of Fundamentals of Sociology, and Paper 2 consists of Indian Society: Structure and Change.

This article covers UPSC Sociology optional syllabus for both Paper 1 and Paper 2, a few tips on how to prepare for this subject, and important topics of the subject.

What is UPSC Sociology Optional Syllabus?

UPSC Sociology is one of the most popular optional subjects among applicants due to its concise syllabus, ease of learning, and availability of quality study materials. Out of a total of 1750 marks for all Mains papers, the optional paper's weightage is 500 marks, that is, 250 marks for each paper. Most of the time, current affairs-based questions are also asked in sociology optional papers. Hence, to score good marks reading a newspaper daily is equally important.

UPSC Sociology Syllabus for Paper 1


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, protestant ethics, and the spirit of capitalism.
  4. Talcolt 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 organisation of work in different types of society - slave society, feudal society, industrial capitalist society.
  2. Formal and informal organisation 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, secularisation, religious revivalism, fundamentalism.

Systems of Kinship:

  1. Family, household, and marriage.
  2. Types and forms of family.
  3. Lineage and descent.
  4. Patriarchy and 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.

Sociology Optional Syllabus - Paper 2


Introducing Indian Society:

(i) Perspectives on the Study of Indian Society:

  1. Indology (G.S. Ghure).
  2. Structural functionalism (M. N. Srinivas).
  3. Marxist sociology (A. R. Desai).

(ii) 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:

(i) 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.

(ii) Caste System:

  1. Perspectives on the study of caste systems: G. S. Ghurye, M. N. Srinivas, Louis Dumont, Andre Beteille.
  2. Features of caste system.
  3. Untouchability- forms and perspectives

(iii) Tribal Communities in India:

  1. Definitional problems.
  2. Geographical spread.
  3. Colonial policies and tribes.
  4. Issues of integration and autonomy.

(iv) Social Classes in India:

  1. Agrarian class structure.
  2. Industrial class structure.
  3. Middle classes in India.

(v) 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.
  5. Patriarchy, entitlements and sexual division of labour.

(vi) Religion and Society:

  1. Religious communities in India.
  2. Problems of religious minorities.

Social Changes in India:

(i) 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.

(ii) 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, and migration.

(iii) 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 mobilisation. 
  4. Informal sector, child labour. 
  5. Slums and deprivation in urban areas. 

(iv) Politics and Society:

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

(v) Social Movements in Modern India:

  1. Peasants and farmers' movements.
  2. Women’s movement.
  3. Backward classes & Dalit movements.
  4. Environmental movements.
  5. Ethnicity and Identity movements.

(vi) 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.

(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.

UPSC Sociology Optional Syllabus PDF

For continuous access to the syllabus of UPSC Sociology optional, you can download the PDF file from the link below.

Download: UPSC Sociology Syllabus PDF

How to Prepare UPSC Sociology Optional Syllabus?

Before preparing for the subject, one should have a clear understanding of the syllabus. After analysing the UPSC sociology syllabus, analyse the previous year's questions, like how UPSC asks questions. This helps in answer writing and identifying the important topics of the subject.

While preparing for the subject, the following points should be taken into consideration:

  • Paper 1 is mostly static and comprehensively covers thinkers and sociological theories, etc. Paper 2 is quite dynamic in nature and mainly deals with Indian society. So aspirants, while writing answers, should interlink paper 1 with paper 2. For example, aspirants can quote thinkers' theories and their perspectives in Paper 2.
  • Current affairs play an important role in Paper 2 of sociology as UPSC asks current-based questions too, and preparing current affairs can help in the enhancement of others' answers too that are not purely current-based. For example, one can write case studies or data from government reports for the enhancement of the answers. From the previous year's questions, one can get an idea about which type of current-based questions UPSC asks.
  • Developing clarity of thought in relation to various sociological thinkers and themes is crucial for the UPSC. For the study, start with NCERT books and then refer to the standard books for selected topics. Make short notes for quick revision.
  • Regular answer writing is a must as it helps in the interlinking of both papers. One can analyse the PYQs and start the answer writing after getting the conceptual clarity of the thinkers and other themes, topic by topic.

Books to Study UPSC Sociology Syllabus

The table below provides a booklist for both papers on sociology optional. Initially, one can start with Sociology Ncert’s Class 11 and 12 for a basic understanding of the subject. After that, move to standard or reference books for the subject as listed below:

Booklist for Paper 1

Booklist for Paper 2

- Haralambos and Holborn's Sociology: Themes and Perspectives

- Anthony Giddens' Sociology Introduction.

- George Ritzer's sociological theory.

- O. P. Gauba's An Introduction to Political Theory.

- Essential Sociology by Nitin Sangwan

- IGNOU Sociology Study Material

- Social Change in Modern India by M N Srinivas.

- Caste: Its Twentieth-Century Avatar Veena Das's Indian Sociology Handbook by M N Srinivas

 - IGNOU Sociology Study Material

- Indian Society: Themes and Social Issues by Nadeem Hasnain

- Yogendra Singh's modernization of Indian tradition.

- A R Desai's Social Background of Indian Nationalism.

Is Sociology Optional Syllabus Static or Dynamic?

The UPSC Sociology syllabus can be divided into two parts. The static component of the syllabus includes methodology, sociological theories, and the antecedents of the discipline, and the dynamic areas include contemporary economic, political, social, demographic and developmental issues. Therefore, Sociology is a blend of astatic and dynamic inferences. It provides space where the themes of current affairs can be related, bringing novelty and dynamism to the answers written by each student.

Moreover, human behaviour is dynamic; therefore, Sociology needs to be a dynamic subject. When one does something, it becomes an act, when Sociology studies the same, it becomes fact. What people experience in their life narration of that life is sociology. Questions on the contemporary relevance of sociological concepts are regularly asked. Therefore, it is important for students to engage with current affairs from a sociological perspective.

Important Topics in UPSC Sociology Syllabus

The UPSC Sociology Optional Syllabus covers a wide range of topics that are relevant to the field of sociology. Here are the important topics you need to be familiar with for the UPSC Sociology Optional paper:

  • Paper 1: Sociological Thinkers, Social Stratification and Mobility, Politics and Society, Social Change in Modern Society
  • Paper 2: Caste System and Mobility, Indian sociological thinkers (including modern thinkers), Systems of Kinship in India, Social changes