If you observe the recent trend in UPSC Sociology questions, the divide between Paper 1 and Paper 2 questions is gradually blurring. In 2014, there was a question in Paper 1 on application of Merton’s deviance to traffic problem in India.

Again in 2016, there was a question: “Social change can be brought about through development.” Illustrate from the contemporary situation of India. Thus, Indian context is no longer the domain of Paper 2 only.

Book list and Other sources mentioned at the end!

These questions underline the importance of combined study of Paper 1 and Paper 2 in a smart manner. The strategy below may sound a little unconventional. Follow it ONLY IF your are starting UPSC Sociology preparation before Prelims. If you are starting after Prelims, please use your discretion.

The topics mentioned can be covered in the same sequence they appear below.

1. Section C of Paper 2 (selected topics)

  • Challenges of Social transformation
  • Population dynamics
  • Industrialisation and Urbanisation in India

Why read this section first?

Jumping directly to technical aspects of Sociology creates a panic among many candidates. Also, most of them are from non-Arts background. A sudden shift to deep study of social science is slightly uncomfortable in the beginning. Covering this section would give a general understanding of society. Since, these topics are GS-like, it would create an interest among students and an eagerness to dive into the details.

More importantly, Section C is that part of syllabus that determines selection or rejection of a aspirant. UPSC knows that this sections is not covered by coaching institutes adequately. Many Paper 2 questions are framed from this section.

You need to come back to this section again (mentioned below).

2. Sociology – The Discipline (Paper 1)

3. Sociology as Science (Paper 1)

4. Research Methods and Analysis (Paper 1)

Just because thinkers are the most important part of UPSC Sociology, does not mean it should be covered first. Yes, you should devote more time to thinkers.

Covering the above topics 2, 3 & 4 would build a basic knowledge of Sociology. This would facilitate easy understanding of subsequent topics. Imagine reading Max Weber’s work on research methods without knowing anything about sociological research.

5. Sociological Thinkers (Paper 1)

This is the BACKBONE of UPSC Sociology. However, if you are referring to more than 2 sources (preferably one), you are digging your grave. Read one or two sources multiple times. Do not forget to read about the life of thinkers mentioned in syllabus. Almost all books have a page or two dedicated to it. Apply the concepts you read to events around you. For example, after you read Durkheim’s suicide, you should be able to relate it to farmers’ suicide in Vidarbha, and student’s suicide in Kota.

Book : Ritzer

6. Perspectives on the study of Indian Society (Paper 2)

G S Ghurye | M N Srinivas | A R Desai

These these thinkers have done extensive work on caste system in India. Since caste system has to be clubbed with Stratification and mobility, these thinkers should be studied before Stratification and mobility.

7. Stratification and mobility (Paper 1)

8. Caste system (Paper 2)

9. Social classes in India (Paper 2)

10. Tribal communities in India (Paper 2)

The above three topics are related to stratification. Covering them together would lead to a 360-degree coverage of stratification and related aspects. Paper 1 topic would give a theoretical background of stratification. They must be applied while reading Paper 2 topics like caste system, social classes etc. Ethnicity is one of the dimensions of stratification mentioned in syllabus. Tribal communities in India is clubbed here since tribe and ethnicity have a close correlation.

Book: Haralambos (Blue book)

10. Politics and Society (Paper 1)

11. Politics and Society (Paper 2)

12. Social movements in Modern India (Paper 2)

Social movements is a topic mentioned under Politics and Society (Paper 1). This makes reading social movements (Paper 2) here, important.

13. Religion and Society (Paper 1)

14. Religion and Society (Paper 2)

The topic “Secularization” is mentioned under RELIGION AND SOCIETY in Paper 1, but under POLITICS AND SOCIETY in Paper 2. You know why?

In Indian context, polity (governance) has to be involved with religion, though not in religious affairs. Government should treat all religions equally. That’s why “Secularization” is under POLITICS AND SOCIETY in Paper 2. Whereas in Western countries, there is complete separation between state and religion.

Varying definition of SECULARIZATION in West and in India has led to its differential placement in Paper 1 and Paper 2.

15. System of Kinship (Paper 1)

16. System of Kinship (Paper 2)

17. Social change in modern society (Paper 1)

18. Visions of social change in India (Paper 2)

19. Impact of colonial rule on Indian Society (Paper 2)

20. Rural and Agrarian social structure (Paper 2)

21. Rural and Agrarian transformation in India (Paper 2)

22. Work and Economic life (Paper 1)

23. Section C of Paper 2 (AGAIN)

24. Sociological thinkers (AGAIN)

Comprehensive coverage of UPSC Sociology syllabus is a major challenge faced by students. The above strategy leaves no room for any topic being missed out. Mind you, UPSC is increasingly becoming a mind game. It will continue to ask more questions from topics that get less attention from coaching institutes or students. Whether a question is from Thinkers or from Population Dynamics; so long as they carry equal marks, they are equally important.

Lastly, you will have a better confidence level in terms of width and depth of coverage, if you follow the above strategy. For example, Politics and Society in Paper 1 covers the theoretical aspects. Whereas, the same topic in Paper 2 covers the application of theories in Indian context. Reading the two topics together would complete the circle of Politics and power.

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Book list | IGNOU Sources | PDFs for unconventional topics | Real world examples