How to Study Political Science as optional?
To begin with, we should know that Political Science is immensely interesting and important subject. It gives you perspective on everything from America Russia relations to Bihar Elections and rise of AAP to rise of Yo Yo Honey Singh. Aristotle used to call it ‘The master science’ or the only science. That may not so true in 21st century, but we cant deny the importance of Political Science in our daily life. For example: We do not kill someone even if the other person has committed a heinous crime. Because, we as member of human race and citizens of India, we have surrendered our right to use violence. Thus, that person gets punished, not by us but by government. This is called ‘Social Contract’ theory. The punishment for murder in India is death. Now this rule was introduced in 1834. That means we agree to a rule that was framed 150 years before we were born!
Political science is filled with such interesting concept.
Lets try to understand the scope and syllabus. Political Science is often described as bottomless and shoreless sea. For the sake for examination, UPSC has classified it in 2 papers and 4 subsections each.
This deals with different thinkers, their ideologies, the perspective on State etc. The thinkers include Plato, Aristotle, Marx, Kautilya Gandhiji and so on. The key here is to understand a thinker as he/she is. A thinker is product of his times and their ideas might seem weird or irrational. Ex: Plato disliked democracy and Aristotle justified slavery. No sane minded person today would feel that way. We need to understand that Plato though his guru Socrates was murdered by Democratically elected government, thus he was furious, eventually hating it. So understanding life and the times in which those thinkers lived, is important to understand the ideas.
Going beyond individual thinkers are important concepts like State, Equality, Democracy and Justice. There are different ideologies in Political Science. Liberalism, Marxism, Socialism, Feminism and Gandhism to name a few. Study of all the above concepts from those perspectives is study of Political Science.
Reference books for this subsection :
- Politics : Andrew Haywood
- A history of Political though. From Plato to Marx : Mukherjee Ramaswami
- Political Theory : O P Gauba
This part deals with Politics in India. It starts with the struggle for independence and different aspects of it. The Gandhian idea of Ahimsa or Satyagraha, its logic and the rationale, then emergence of revolutionaries, left parties etc. Other strand in the movement like Women’s movement or a vibrant Dalit movement also are part of this. A basic understanding of history is necessary here. Then we have to analyse history from Political Science perspective.
Then we move on to the constitutionalism. How was our constitution framed? What are its basic concepts? Basic philosophies governing the extent and separation of power. Then the most important issues in todays political context. Issue like urbanisation, secularism, federalism etc. The issue of judicial activism, rise of civil society and development of civil society into political parties. UPSC studies do not involve questions on politics, except this section. No direct questions are asked but the closer and deeper understanding of Indian political scenario is important.
The reference books:
- Daily newspapers, specially the Editorial section
- A good book on Constitution by – Subhash Kashyap or D D Basu or M Laxmikant
- From Plassey to partition – Sudeep Bandopadhyay
- India : Sumit Sarkar
- Oxford companion to politics in India : Edited by Pratap Bhanu Mehta
- Indian Politics – Rekha Singh
In colloquial language we keep taking the name Political Science, forgetting the fact that entire name of the subject is Political Science and International relations. This paper exclusively deals with the IR part. Apart from the application, this deals with theoretical approaches to study International relations.
This section deals with comparative politics. Comparative politics deals with different approaches to study Political Science or Societies. i.e. from Economic or Social perspective. Deeper understanding of the topic can be achieved through the books mentioned below. Important part here to apply those theories, models to real world around us. That simplifies the subject, also makes understanding easier.
The section deals with theories of International relations like Realist or Liberal theories. It also deals with understanding of terms like ‘National Interest’ or ‘Zero sum game’ or ‘Non Zero sum game’, ‘Balance of Power’ and so on. The definition and extent of globalisation, its impact on different societies etc.
The reference books:
- Globalisation of world politics : Baylis and Smith
- Comparative politics : Mahendra Kumar
- World Politics : Andrew Haywood
This section deals with important events in world politics in last 60 years. Cold war, cuban missile crisis, Gulf wars, Arab-Israel conflict, USSR disintegration and so on. After that, Indian Foreign Policy is to be studied. The rationale of ‘Non Alignment’ which means India was neither in USA or USSR camp. India followed its own policy in its own interest. Then the current issues of Indian foreign policy regarding relations to China, USA, Japan, Pakistan and and so on. An important aspect of India’s foreign policy is its economic aspect. So the integration to global economy through BRICS Bank or IMF reforms of WTO negotiations is to be studied. Environmental negotiations like the one about to take place in Paris in December 2015. The idea behind India’s nuclear policy (Non First Use) and the potentiality of India becoming a regional and later superpower. This section is entirely Current oriented, with very few questions on past. Thus newspaper reading becomes very important.
The reference books:
- Daily newspapers. Specially The Hindu and The Indian Express
- Indian Foreign Policy – V P Dutt,
- Indian Foreign Policy – Muchkund Dubey
- Books by David Malone, C Raja Mohan, Fareed Zakaria and Robert Kaplan
- Magazines like Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy and The Economist
In all of this, we need to keep in mind the broader points regarding study.
- To understand Political Science, we need to read a lot. It is important to build perspective, get detailed knowledge and depth to analyse.
- It is also important to get a knack of writing answers. That will come through practise. regular and intense practice.
- The idea is to get as much knowledge possible without loosing the grip over the syllabus. That means whatever we study, has to be connected back to syllabus. So a clear understanding of syllabus is very important.
- Political Science is a simple subject to understand only if we give it due attention. Thus notes making is an integral part.
- Another key to unlock political science to apply those abstract ideas to society around us.
- For engineering or science students, it could be difficult to understand the subject at first. There are are no divergent opinions is science compared to what we have in Political Science. Even a simple concept like Equality has numerous aspects. Political equality would mean giving everyone right to vote. But for the people who live as day wagers in different cities, its of no use, for they can not use it.
Add to this the divergence of viewpoints! So initially it might be difficult. As we go on reading more, the subjects becomes simpler to understand and much enjoyable!
UPSC Comprehensive (2017-18)
Optional Political Science Mains Syllabus
Section A : Political Theory and Indian Politics
1. Political Theory : meaning and approaches.
2. Theories of the State : Liberal, Neo-liberal, Marxist, Pluralist, Post-colonial and feminist.
3. Justice : Conceptions of justice with special reference to Rawl’s theory of justice and its
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.
Section B : 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
(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 Movements : Civil liberties and human rights movements; women’s movements; environmentalist movements.
Section A : 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; Transnational actors and collective security; World capitalist economy and globalization.
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, SAARC,NAFTA
11. Contemporary Global Concerns : Democracy, human rights, environment, gender justice, terrorism, nuclear proliferation.
Section B : India and the World
1. Indian Foreign Policy : Determinants of foreign policy; 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 crisis in Afghanistan, Iraq and West Asia, growing relations with US and Israel; vision of a new world order.