Sociology Optional Syllabus

Sociology is a widely chosen optional for the Union Public Service Commission's Civil Services Exam. The UPSC Sociology syllabus is relatively short compared to most other optional subjects, which is one of the main reasons sociology is so popular as an optional.

A Summary

Sociology syllabus is divided into 2 papers - Paper 1 and Paper 2. While Sociology Paper 1 deals with the Fundamentals of Sociology, its Paper 2 deals with our own (Indian) society. To go through the Sociology optional syllabus in detail, you can find the option to download or read it below.

Download Sociology UPSC Syllabus PDF



1. Sociology - The Discipline:

(a) Modernity and social changes in Europe and emergence of sociology.

(b) Scope of the subject and comparison with other social sciences

(c) Sociology and common sense.

2. Sociology as Science:

(a) Science, scientific method and critique.

(b) Major theoretical strands of research methodology.

(c) Positivism and its critique.

(d) Fact value and objectivity.

(e) Non- positivist methodologies.

3. Research Methods and Analysis:

(a) Qualitative and quantitative methods.

(b) Techniques of data collection.

(c) Variables, sampling, hypothesis, reliability and validity.

4. Sociological Thinkers:

(a) Karl Marx- Historical materialism, mode of production, alienation, class struggle.

(b) Emile Durkheim- Division of labour, social fact, suicide, religion and society.

(c) Max Weber- Social action, ideal types, authority, bureaucracy, protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism.

(d) Talcolt Parsons- Social system, pattern variables.

(e) Robert K. Merton- Latent and manifest functions, conformity and deviance, reference groups

(f) Mead - Self and identity.

5. Stratification and Mobility:

(a) Concepts- equality, inequality, hierarchy, exclusion, poverty and deprivation.

(b) Theories of social stratification- Structural functionalist theory, Marxist theory, Weberian theory.

(c) Dimensions – Social stratification of class, status groups, gender, ethnicity and race.

(d) Social mobility- open and closed systems, types of mobility, sources and causes of mobility.

6. Works and Economic Life:

(a) Social organization of work in different types of society- slave society, feudal society, industrial /capitalist society.

(b) Formal and informal organization of work.

(c) Labour and society.

7. Politics and Society:

(a) Sociological theories of power.

(b) Power elite, bureaucracy, pressure groups, and political parties.

(c) Nation, state, citizenship, democracy, civil society, ideology

(d) Protest, agitation, social movements, collective action, revolution.

8. Religion and Society:

(a) Sociological theories of religion.

(b) Types of religious practices: animism, monism, pluralism, sects, cults

(c) Religion in modern society: religion and science, secularization, religious revivalism, fundamentalism.

9. Systems of Kinship:

(a) Family, household, marriage.

(b) Types and forms of family.

(c) Lineage and descent.

(d) Patriarchy and sexual division of labour.

(e) Contemporary trends.

10. Social Change in Modern Society:

(a) Sociological theories of social change.

(b) Development and dependency

(c) Agents of social change

(d) Education and social change.

(e) Science, technology and social change.



A. Introducing Indian Society:

(i) Perspectives on the study of Indian Society:

(a) Indology (GS. Ghurye).

(b) Structural functionalism (M N Srinivas).

(c) Marxist sociology (A R Desai).

(ii) Impact of colonial rule on Indian Society:

(a) Social background of Indian nationalism.

(b) Modernization of Indian tradition

(c) Protests and movements during the colonial period.

(d) Social reforms.

B. Social Structure:

(i) Rural and Agrarian Social Structure:

(a) The idea of Indian village and village studies.

(b) Agrarian social structure – evolution of land tenure system, land reforms.

(ii) Caste System:

(a) Perspectives on the study of caste systems: GS Ghurye, M N Srinivas, Louis Dumont, Andre Beteille.

(b) Features of caste system.

(c) Untouchability - forms and perspectives.

(iii) Tribal communities in India:

(a) Definitional problems.

(b) Geographical spread.

(c) Colonial policies and tribes.

(d) Issues of integration and autonomy.

(iv) Social Classes in India:

(a) Agrarian class structure.

(b) Industrial class structure.

(c) Middle classes in India.

(v) Systems of Kinship in India:

(a) Lineage and descent in India.

(b) Types of kinship systems.

(c) Family and marriage in India.

(d) Household dimensions of the family.

(e) Patriarchy, entitlements and sexual division of labour.

(vi) Religion and Society:

(a) Religious communities in India

(b) Problems of religious minorities.

C. Social Changes in India:

(i) Visions of Social Change in India:

(a) Idea of development planning and mixed economy.

(b) Constitution, law and social change.

(c) Education and social change.

(ii) Rural and Agrarian transformation in India:

(a) Programmes of rural development, Community Development Programme, cooperatives, poverty alleviation schemes.

(b) Green revolution and social change.

(c) Changing modes of production in Indian agriculture.

(d) Problems of rural labour, bondage, migration.

(iii) Industrialization and Urbanisation in India:

(a) Evolution of modern industry in India.

(b) Growth of urban settlements in India.

(c) Working class: structure, growth, class mobilization.

(d) Informal sector, child labour.

(e) Slums and deprivation in urban areas.

(iv) Politics and Society:

(a) Nation, democracy and citizenship.

(b) Political parties, pressure groups , social and political elite.

(c) Regionalism and decentralization of power.

(d) Secularization

(v) Social Movements in Modern India:

(a) Peasants and farmers movements.

(b) Women’s movement.

(c) Backward classes & Dalit movement.

(d) Environmental movements.

(e) Ethnicity and Identity movements.

(vi) Population Dynamics:

(a) Population size, growth, composition and distribution.

(b) Components of population growth: birth, death, migration

(c) Population policy and family planning.

(d) Emerging issues: ageing, sex ratios, child and infant mortality, reproductive health.

(vii) Challenges of Social Transformation:

(a) Crisis of development: displacement, environmental problems and sustainability.

(b) Poverty, deprivation and inequalities.

(c) Violence against women.

(d) Caste conflicts.

(e) Ethnic conflicts, communalism, religious revivalism.

(f) Illiteracy and disparities in education.

Understanding the Sociology Syllabus:

To develop a proper understanding of the sociology optional UPSC 2024 syllabus, you are advised to read about its main features. The main highlights of the UPSC sociology syllabus are explained below.

1. Difficulty Level
Most of the Sociology syllabus topics are fairly easy to understand. Even a fresher with no academic background in sociology can master most of the topics with relative ease. However, few topics may be difficult in the beginning such as qualitative and quantitative research methods in Paper-I and modernization of Indian tradition and ethnic movements in Paper-II.

2. Syllabus structure
An important feature of the sociology optional is that the syllabus is very well structured, as explained below.

Structure of Paper-I

Paper-I has total of 10 units which can be divided into 4 sections for convenience, as follows:-

1. Sociology Basics – The first 3 units cover the basics of the subject such as the emergence of the sociology, how it can compares with other subject, whether sociology is scientific or not, various research methods etc.

2. Thinkers - This is the most important unit of the whole Paper-I syllabus. There are 6 thinkers in our syllabus. Out of these, 3 are functionalist (namely Durkheim, Parsons and Merton), one is conflict theorist (Marx), one symbolic interactionist (GH Mead) and one is interpretive sociologist (Weber).

3. Social Institutions – In terms of length, the greatest portion of Sociology optional Paper-I is devoted to the important social institutions. There are 5 units in the Paper-I syllabus covering 5 important social institutions namely religion, family and kinship, economic system, political system and stratification.

4. Social Change – In this unit, the main emphasis is on changes taking place in the society due to the impact of science and technology, education and mass media.

Structure of Paper-II

Paper-II has total of 15 units divided into 3 broad sections, as follows:-

1. Introduction – This is the smallest section and it introduces the student to Indian sociology. It includes the important portion of thinkers (there are only 3 thinkers in Paper-II). Apart from this, the section includes analyzing the impact of British rule on our society.

2. Structure of Indian Society -This is the biggest section of the Sociology optional Paper-II syllabus. It covers 6 important social institutions in 6 separate units namely the caste system, agrarian social structure, tribal groups, various classes, kinship & family system, and religion.

3. Changes in Indian Society – In this section, we study the impact of the Constitution and laws, changes induced in our society by the spread of education, how government policies and programs like the Green Revolution are affecting the society and developmental processes such as industrialization. Further, the impact of political processes, social movements and demographic factors is also covered. The last unit in this section covers problems associated with social change such as caste conflicts, environmental degradation, tribal displacement etc.

3. Important Topics in the Syllabus
UPSC aspirants need to understand that all syllabus topics do not carry the same weight in the examination. Some topics can be clearly identified as more important than others. Here, we have highlighted the most important topics in the Sociology Optional UPSC 2024 syllabus for your reference.

In Paper-I, the most important unit is Sociological Thinkers (Unit-IV). Amongst the thinkers; Marx, Durkheim & Weber have the maximum weightage. In Social Institutions, questions are more frequently asked from the units on religion and family.

In Paper-II, the most important portions are village studies, untouchability, integration of tribes, Patriarchy, working class, secularism and social movements.

4. Current Affairs in Sociology syllabus
It is also important to remember that though the UPSC Sociology syllabus does not explicitly mention current affairs, they are integral to one’s preparation. Candidates are advised to read a reputed newspaper regularly and keep themselves updated with recent developments in our society. Some questions can be directly asked on issues currently in news. However, such current affairs topics can be easily linked to various topics mentioned in the syllabus.

5. Separate syllabus and study plan for UPSC CSE
Students are advised that the UPSC Sociology optional syllabus is different from the syllabus of the Sociology degree courses like BA, MA and Ph.D. So, one cannot blindly follow the resource materials, books or lectures of these courses for Sociology optional UPSC 2024 papers.

6. Interlinkages
A notable feature of UPSC sociology optional syllabus is the high degree of inter-linkages between topics. Many sociology concepts and theories which are studied in paper 1 can also be applied in paper 2. Thus, the subject has to be viewed and studied as a whole.

7. Holistic Coverage
Even though some topics are more important than others, it is important for the student to ensure that he/ she covers each and every topic mentioned in the syllabus.