Political science and International relations is a very popular optional subject among the list of optionals provided by the UPSC for the Mains exam. There have been many toppers who have had political science as their optional subject. There are a number of reasons a good number of IAS candidates select this subject as their optional. In this article, we cover all you need to know about political science and international relations as an optional for the UPSC mains exam.
There have been several IAS candidates who cleared the IAS exam with flying colours with political science & international relations optional. The most high-profile being Tina Dabi, who secured the first rank in the 2015 civil services exam, in her maiden attempt. Dabi got good marks in both her optional papers. She secured 128 and 171 out of 250 in her optional paper I and paper II respectively. These marks definitely helped her increase her total marks.
|The following table gives the names and ranks of a few toppers with political science optional:|
PSIR 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.
Many candidates take up political science as their optional every year because of the many advantages this subject offers to IAS aspirants.
1. Overlap with General Studies (GS):
Political science has a good overlap with the general studies papers, especially GS Paper II. This overlap is true for both the prelims and the Mains exams.
In the UPSC Mains Syllabus, the political science optional syllabus would find a major overlap in the GS Paper-II.
2. GS Paper II Syllabus: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations
As you can see, the entire GS paper II syllabus is covered under this optional. Also, a portion of GS Paper III such as security and even environment are covered under this subject. In GS Paper IV, ‘ethical thinkers’ is a topic that is covered if you take up this optional. Paper I of this optional has the topic ‘Political strategies of India’s freedom struggle’. This will also give you a bit of an overlap with history in GS I. Even topics like modern India and World History (post-1900) can be covered better through this optional.
Moreover, even in the essay paper, a topic on politics or related issues is asked. So, a candidate who studies this optional will get enough fodder to write about related topics in the essay paper.
So, it can be safely said that there is considerable overlap of subject material if you take the political science and international relations optional. You can successfully integrate your prelims and mains preparation and also save a lot of time during the preparation process.
3. Help in current affairs coverage : Many topics in this optional are related to current affairs, especially in Paper II of this optional subject. As such, this will definitely help in your current affairs preparation. Conversely, this subject has a contemporary nature and so, answers can be embellished by quoting examples and anecdotes from the daily newspaper reading as well.
4. No background in the subject needed: Another advantage of political science is that this is not a very technical subject. Hence, a candidate need not have any prior knowledge or experience in this subject. It can be read and understood if you access the right books and online sources. So, anyone with an interest in the subject can take it up.
5. Help in the UPSC interview : A knowledge of polity and international relations will also comprehensively help in the UPSC interview. This is because of the strong linkage of polity and IR with current affairs. An understanding of political theories will also help candidates present their views better and in a more convincing manner.
6. Helps in Ethics Paper:
PSIR optional will help students, in Ethics paper. As, Paper 1 of PSIR contain thoughts and theories portion, which is directly linked with Ethics paper part 1. In ethics paper, aspirants can improve their content for particular subject by covering PSIR optional syllabus. E.g. many topics in thoughts like of Mill, Bentham and Liberal notions of state, justice and democracy, etc. are pretty much interrelated.
7. Helps in Essay Writing/ Selecting the Topics :
PSIR as optional paper will also help aspirants in Essay paper, as paper will definitely have two questions from the political science-related subject matter. E.g. Social Justice, Democracy, Quotes by Scholars, Topics like Real is Rational, Rational is Real (It is by Hegel, and it is asked as an Essay topic in UPSC Mains)
8. Predictability of Questions:
You can predict most of the questions, especially from Paper 1. Around 75% of questions repeat. Given the optional nature of questions, PYQs can cover almost 90% of your answered questions. Our PYQ approach in the test papers will give more clarity on this. PSIR PYQs 1995 onwards (unsolved) and PSIR PYQs Model Answers (2013 onwards) by our mentors will be your great assets in the process.
No doubt, there are many advantages to political science optional. But, there could be a few difficulties also, especially if candidates do not think through before selecting this optional. Political science has a lot of theory-based concepts. This means the answers should be presented in a very crisp manner. Generally, it is thought that good answer-writing skills are essential to ace this paper. Even though this is true of all the UPSC papers, it is especially true for such optionals, particularly when you compare with more technical subjects like maths, science subjects, or even geography and anthropology.
1. Indian Government and Politics
(a) Political Strategies of India’s Freedom Struggle: Constitutionalism to mass Satyagraha, Noncooperation, 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; Grassroots 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 center-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 behavior; changing socio-economic profile of Legislators.
11. Social Movement: Civil liberties and human rights movements; women’s movements; environmentalist movements.
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 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, AARC, NAFTA.
11. Contemporary Global Concerns: Democracy, human rights, environment, gender justice terrorism, nuclear proliferation.
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 cooperation: 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 the US and Israel; and Vision of a new world order.
✅ Use relevant quotes while writing answers.
✅ Focus on relevant editorials in the newspapers – they can provide valuable material to augment your answers.
✅ Always give importance to current political perspectives.
✅ Online sources are very important, especially for dynamic sections of the papers.
✅ Candidates can relate recent developments with theoretical frameworks and add value to answers.
✅ When examples are given, they should be relevant and contemporary. E.g. When Questions on Social Movements are asked, it should be linked to newer developments. For example, The Yellow Vests Protests (2018). For this you should be well aware of the current affairs of global nature as well. Here our mentors help you in extracting relevant information.
✅ Don’t be aggressive when putting forward your own opinion, be respectful.
✅ While writing answers for this optional, keep in mind the Four Cs – Compare, Criticise, Contemporary, and Conclude.
✅ Join Educrat IAS Academy’s Optional Course and get India’s top mentor’s Guidance.
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