Political Science and International Relations (PSIR) Optional Syllabus for UPSC

The UPSC allows a choice of optional subjects out of a list of 48 subjects. UPSC Mains Examination has nine papers including two papers of optional subject. UPSC Political Science and International Relations is a subject given in the list of Optional Subjects.

The Political Science and International Relations (PSIR) optional subject is a popular choice among UPSC aspirants due to its consistent scoring potential and relevance. It seamlessly blends both static and dynamic elements, making it an engaging and rewarding subject for those preparing for the Civil Services Examination.

PSIR, as it is commonly known, is one subject for which a huge amount of study material is available. The syllabus consists of topics related to the freedom struggle and Indian politics, the Constitution of India, the international economic system and trade, international organisations, India’s foreign policy and peacekeeping among others. These topics are also part of the General Studies syllabus.

PSIR: Political Science Optional Syllabus

Political Science Optional consists of 2 papers (Paper I and Paper II) in the UPSC Civil Services Mains Examination. Each paper is of 250 marks with a total of 500 marks.

Political Science Optional Syllabus: Paper-1

Section A: Political Theory and Indian Politics

  • Political theory: meaning and approaches.
  • Theories of the state: Liberal, Neo-liberal, Marxist, Pluralist, Post-colonial and feminist.
  • Justice: Conceptions of justice with special reference to Rawl’s theory of justice and its communitarian critiques.
  • Equality: Social, political and economic; the relationship between equality and freedom; Affirmative action.
  • Rights: Meaning and theories; different kinds of rights; the concept of Human Rights.
  • Democracy: Classical and contemporary theories; different models of democracy-representative, participatory and deliberative.
  • Concept of power: hegemony, ideology and legitimacy.
  • Political Ideologies: Liberalism, Socialism, Marxism, Fascism, Gandhism and Feminism.
  • Indian Political Thought: Dharmashastra, Arthashastra and Buddhist traditions; Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Sri Aurobindo, M.K. Gandhi, B.R. Ambedkar, M.N. Roy.
  • Western Political Thought: Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, John S. Mill, Marx, Gramsci, Hannah Arend

Section B: Indian Government and Politics

  • Indian Nationalism:
    • Political Strategies of India’s Freedom struggle: constitutionalism to mass Satyagraha, Non-cooperation, Civil Disobedience; militant and revolutionary movements, Peasant and workers’ movements.
    • Perspectives on Indian National Movement: Liberal, Socialist and Marxist; Radical humanist and Dalit.
  • Making of the Indian Constitution: Legacies of the British rule; different social and political perspectives.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Grassroots Democracy: Panchayati Raj and Municipal Government; the significance of 73rd and 74th Amendments; Grassroot movements.
  • 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.
  • Federalism: Constitutional provisions; changing nature of centre-state relations; integrationist tendencies and regional aspirations; inter-state disputes.
  • Planning and Economic Development: Nehruvian and Gandhian perspectives; the role of planning and public sector; Green Revolution, land reforms and agrarian relations; liberalization and economic reforms.
  • Caste, Religion and Ethnicity in Indian Politics.
  • 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.
  • Social Movements: Civil liberties and human rights movements; women’s movements; environmentalist movements

Political Science Optional Syllabus: Paper-2

Section A: 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 globalisation.
  7. Changing International Political Order:
    • (a) Rise of superpowers; 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 Bretton woods 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; the 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:
    • Regional Co-operation: SAARC-past performance and future prospects.
    • South Asia as a Free Trade Area.
    • India’s “Look East” policy.
    • 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; the vision of new world order.

Advantages of Choosing PSIR as Your Optional Subject:

  1. Interest and Passion: Study a subject you’re genuinely interested in.
  2. Scoring Potential: PSIR allows for concise and analytical answers.
  3. Overlapping with General Studies: Significant overlap with GS syllabus.
  4. Abundant Study Material: Plenty of resources available.
  5. Relevant Current Affairs: Stay updated with political events.
  6. Career Opportunities: Beyond UPSC, PSIR opens doors in public administration, diplomacy, and academia.
  7. Interdisciplinary Nature: Enriches your understanding of governance and politics.

Remember, choosing the right optional subject is a crucial decision. Dive into PSIR with enthusiasm, and it might just be your pathway to success!

How to Prepare UPSC PSIR Optional Syllabus?

Preparing for the PSIR optional syllabus requires a well-structured plan and a deep understanding of the syllabus. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to prepare for the UPSC PSIR optional:

  • Understand the Syllabus:
    • Begin by thoroughly understanding the PSIR optional syllabus. Familiarize yourself with the topics and sub-topics mentioned in the UPSC syllabus to create a roadmap for your preparation.
  • Collect Study Materials:
    • Gather the necessary study materials, including textbooks, and reference books.
  • Join a Coaching Institute:
    • Enrolling in a coaching institute for PSIR is optional but can be beneficial if you require structured guidance.Vajiram and Ravi provide exam-oriented study materials, test series, and expert guidance.
  • Create a Study Plan:
    • Develop a comprehensive UPSC study plan that covers the entire syllabus. Allocate sufficient time for each topic, giving priority to your strengths and areas that require more attention.
  • Study Plan:
    • Start with political theories, as they form the foundation of the subject.
    • Indian political system, constitution, comparative politics, and international relations for a comprehensive understanding of governance and global dynamics.
  • Current Affairs:
    • Stay updated with current affairs, especially in the fields of politics, international relations, and governance. Read newspapers and magazines regularly.
  • Practice Answer Writing:
  • Join a Test Series:
    • Enroll in a PSIR optional test series to assess your preparation and get feedback on your performance. Mock tests help you manage time effectively and refine your answering technique.
  • Revision:
    • Regularly revise what you’ve learned to ensure retention. Create concise notes or mind maps for quick revision during the last few months before the exam.
  • Remember that UPSC PSIR optional is a vast subject, so it’s crucial to manage your time wisely and focus on understanding concepts rather than rote learning.

Books to Prepare PSIR Optional Syllabus

When it comes to choosing books for the Political Science and International Relations optional subject, it’s essential to have a comprehensive and well-rounded list of books that cover the entire UPSC Political Science syllabus. Here’s a recommended booklist for PSIR:

  • A History of Political Thought: Plato to Marx- by Subrata Mukherjee & Sushila Ramaswamy (PHI)
  • Western Political Thought– by OP Gauba (National Paperback)
  • Political Ideologies-  by Andrew Heywood (Red Globe Press)
  • Political Theory – An Introduction to Political Science- by Rajeev Bhargav & Ashok Acharya (Pearson)
  • Foundation of Indian Political Thought – by VR Mehta (Manohar)
  • India’s Struggle for Independence– by Bipan Chandra (Penguin Random House)
  • Indian Government and Politics– by BL Fadia (Sahitya Bhawan)
  • The Oxford Companion to Politics in India– by Pratap Bhanu Mehta (Oxford)
  • Comparative Politics– by J.C. Johari (Sterling Publisher PVT)
  • Global Politics– by Andrew Heywood (Red Globe Press)
  • Globalization of World Politics– by John Baylis, Steve Smith, Patricia Owens (Oxford University Press)
  • The Oxford Handbook of Indian Foreign Policy– by David M. Malone, C. Raja Mohan, and Srinath Raghavan (Oxford Handbooks)

The syllabus consists of topics related to the freedom struggle and Indian politics, the Constitution of India, the international economic system and trade, international organisations, India’s foreign policy and peacekeeping among others.

As per the data given by the UPSC annual reports, 1246 candidates had opted for political science as their optional in the 2017 civil services mains exam. Out of this number, 117 candidates were recommended revealing a success rate of 9.4% for that year.

There is a perception among aspirants that PSIR is one of the toughest optional papers. There is no easy or tough optional subject. It is all about your interests in the subject and sometimes your background like your graduation.

Some important Political Science books for IAS exam are:

PSIR Optional – Political Science Books: Paper 1

Section A: Political Theory
  • “An Introduction to Political Theory” by O.P Gauba, 7th Edition, Mayur Publication
  • “Political Theory: An Introduction” by Rajeev Bhargava and Ashok Acharya, 2nd edition, Pearson.
  • “A History of Political Thought: Plato to Marx” by Subrata Mukherjee and Sushila Ramaswamy.
  • “Western Political Thought: From Socrates to the age of Ideology” by Brian. R. Nelson.
  • IGNOU BOOKLET MPSE-004 Social and Political Thought in Modern India
  • “Modern Indian Political Thought: Text and Context” by Bidyut Chakrabarty and Rajendra Kumar Pandey.
Section B: Indian Government and Politics
  • “India’s Struggle for Independence” by Bipin Chandra.
  • “Introduction to the Constitution of India” by Dr Durga Das Basu.
  • “Indian Government and Politics” by A.S.Narang, Geetanjali Publication
  • “The Oxford Companion to Politics in India” by Niraja Gopal Jayal and Pratap Bhanu Mehta.

PSIR Optional – Political Science Books: Paper 2

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.
  • “Theories of Comparative Politics: The Search for a Paradigm Reconsidered” by Ronald H. Chilcote.
  • IGNOU notes on Comparative Politics.
Section B: India and the World
  • Indian Foreign Policy: An Overview  by Harsh Pant  
  • International Relations – Mcgraw Hill education
  • “IDSA website should be followed for articles.
  • MEA website should be regularly followed for updates and articles.
  • IR editorials should be followed in The Indian Express and The Hindu.

Political Science and International Relations OR PSIR is a popular optional subject and one that many toppers have chosen in UPSC Mains Exam but cautious analysis is required before taking it up as an optional because what is beneficial for one might be detrimental to another.

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