Question from a reader
I’m from chennai. I have choosen my optionals as geography and political science. But when I approached the coaching centres, they told me that they are not offering political science as it is not a good optional in terms of scoring and popularity .They are manipulating me that pub ad is better and I need to join only pub ad coaching. What should i do.
You ask them, If Political science is not scoring, then how did Abhiram and Kartik Iyer got 4th and 7th Rank respectively with this same optional subject, in UPSC 2010 Exam?!
Anyways, here goes the strategy and booklist for Political Science. (Geography strategy was given in previous article, click me)
- Abhiram (AIR 4/CSE 2010)
- Booklist for Political Science
- Paper 1
- Paper 2
- Karthik Iyer (AIR 7 / CSE 2010)
- Related Articles on Booklist / Study plan for Mains Optional Subjects
In response to queries regarding my political science preparation, i’ve decided to put up this post. Please note that I obtained 326 in pol.sci (138+188), which clearly shows my strength (paper 2) & weakness (paper 1). For paper 1, please do not regard my method as final.
- Political theory – O P Gauba
- International relations – V K Malhotra
- Constitution by D.D. Basu
- Indian govt & politics by Fadia
- Indian political thought by V.R.Mehta
- India’s struggle for independence by Bipan Chandra (not a must)
- Modern Indian history by Spectrum
- Political thought & theory – Printed notes from several sources provided by my teacher, Balalatha madam
- Cosmos book hives vol.1 & vol.3
- World focus magazine
- Civil service times
- Hindu & frontline
- International & bilateral issues – Self-made notes from Internet, M.o.External Affairs website & the Hindu.
I could not prepare as well as I wanted to, because of the lack of time (started reading thinkers & thought only after UPSC Preliminary Examination). I read & re-read OP Gauba for the concepts like justice, equality, hegemony, rights, ideology etc. Even though “ideologies” part is good in gauba, I’d suggest you go for Andrew Heywood’s ideologies (take a photocopy if you find the book expensive). I’ve always found Indian political thought confusing for the most part, even in VR Mehta. For thought & thinkers, I mainly depended on Cosmos book-hives publication (vol. 1) and printed notes from various sources provided by my teacher balalatha madam. I also depended on the internet for some thinkers like gramsci & arendt. (Unfortunately, none of the major thinkers I prepared were asked in the mains!)
As far as Indian nationalism is concerned, I stuck to Bipan Chandra & spectrum’s history of modern India. IGNOU material is ok, but I never got time to read the same. Also, I combined the preparation for certain topics like radical humanism w/ MN Roy, dalit perspective with Ambedkar etc. Which I believe helped me save time.You can depend on DD Basu & Fadia for Indian constitution & politics. But fadia is bit outdated with regard to examples, so better find out recent ones for political issues if possible. For the various national commissions (nhrc/sc/st/women etc), I totally depended on their respective websites.
I went through the recent election analyses in The Hindu (by Yogendra Yadav’s team) for understanding election trends.
Comparative politics was & remains a puzzle to me. So I read only Cosmos book-hives (vol. 3) for the topic. But some seniors in the field recommended Ronald chilkote for this topic, whose book I could never lay my hands on. For IR theories (power, natl security, approaches to IR study etc.), Vinay Kumar Malhotra’s International relations is really good. For some topics like globalization, international economic order etc., it’s better to add contemporary issues that you may read in periodicals & newspapers to the answer you write.
Also, try to take stands on issues like ‘do we need NAM?’ (Better to stick to “yes” with reasons), UN/IMF/World bank reforms etc. During the days of preparation itself. Write these down in point form along with substantiating reasons, so that it’s easier to revise before the mains. Tapan biswal’s book is good for the international economy part, but again i’ve not read the book due to time shortage.
Use the internet to the maximum when you’re studying about international & regional organizations like UN, ASEAN, OAS, AU, EU, and SAARC etc. At the same time, understand the pros & cons of such organizations as well as intra-group relations of various countries (India’s big brother attitude to south asia, Thailand-cambodia clashes, eastern vs. Western Europe etc.) & how they affect the cohesion of the groupings. For contemporary world concerns like environment, terrorism, gender issues etc. I depended on Hindu, frontline & Civil Service Times.
For India & the world part, I depend on wikipedia, world focus, Hindu & min. Of external affairs website. I prepared my own notes for these topics. Another thing I did was to note the + & – of our relations with every major country. For this I took a paper, divided it into two columns, one for the +ves & the other for –ves. Jot down points you pick up from the newspaper daily in the columns, & you’ll get a very good idea of our bilateral ties.
Try to read the Nov-Dec annual issue of world focus cover to cover as it covers bilateral ties with almost all important nations. Also understand the background dynamics of issues so that you may be able to voice clear opinions. Eg: india’s role in a post-taliban Afghanistan & its ties with US & Pakistan in this perspective, India vs China in Africa, india’s stand vis-à-vis iran’s nuclear option etc.
PS – I don’t think international relations can be mastered in a short span of time. So better start reading current affairs magazines & the Hindu as early as possible to build up your base. There is no better source for IR than the internet, but only if you have regular access to it.
Regards & all the best,
Abhiram has already given a good outline of his strategy for Political science and im afraid i have nothing more to add there,but i am still posting on how i went about preparing my optional for mains.
A Backgrounder-i finished my graduation and sat at home,preparing full time.i joined IGNOU (MA pol sci) and University of Pune (MA history) to keep me sane (studying at home drives me insane,used as i am to being a hostelite).so had plenty of time in my hand,and access to a great library,a personal collection of my own relative whos a professor of some renown in the subjects i chose as optionals.
- I had chosen political science as my prelim option and began preparing with that.I had a friend who did Raus classes in delhi in 2006-7 and cleared ,and i began by buying his stack of notes he had scribbled while attending class.
- Before i made much headway there my IGNOU MA books came,and took my fancy and so i gave them a detailed reading.(by this time i had finished off that guys notes once,they covered the portion,but left me feeling not satisfied)
I found them a little too advanced (despite my BA in Pol sci) and so went to the BA books of IGNOU.
Both BA and MA books done after a painful ordeal,i really could not make my mind up whether there was enough bang for buck in them.
Then (around december) i started borrowing and reading original books like-
The Prince,Politics among nations,Political theory,Das Kapital explained and a long list of original books.Western Political Thought in particular was something i spent a lot of time understanding.The story of philosophy is a good book for that.
- Burke,Ebenstein,Rosseau,Bentha m,Mill,Locke,Hobbes,Easton,Alm ond,Coleman,Powell,Deustch,hey wood,rawls,amartya sen are some authors that readily come to mind.Indian Political thought i read in Sanskrit in original then English and made extensive notes (as my other optional was history,this overlaps).I scanned what parts i liked and thought important (and these scanned pages,when collated became my notes).OP Gauba was a book i frequently turned to for flow.
- I paid special attention to Marxist thought and its development,dependency theorists,and newish developments thanks to Globalization.
Writing practice i carried on along with each topics initial study (which i did as they are listed in the syllabus).In writing passages,id consciously try including something from all my sources in each para,so that my answers were more rounded and had multiple points of view.
I made no distinction in study for prelimns and mains till april 2010,and later only started paying more attention to factual details.
Indian Polity i did from Laxmikant and DD Basu,and again noted the dry bones(facts expected from every aspirant like article no for emergency,important court cases in SC) down in my notes.
Once my notes were done (around 800 pages in all) i kept revising and re-revising it i had some confidence that anything asked from it,id put in a fair answer.
- I was lucky everything was asked from that only,and so i could answer,though not to my expectations or satisfaction. For remaining topics like Feminism, i used net extensively and kept a view on current trends (like formation of UNW).
As far as paper 2 was concerned, my preparation was current affairs(newspapers and magazines) and internet based.I did not read any special book for it and this might have cost me heavy as my score is not up to scratch in this paper,as is the case in GS2 where a heavy dose of International Relations is seen.But based on the same,i could ace my interview which was based solely on IR.so i do not know the efficacy of my preparation,or maybe my writing style or handwriting itself cost me heavy.
EPW is a great magazine,frontline is indispensible,and i used to surf websites of BBC,CNN,Al-Jazeera for important events.
Writing practice was done extensively, and simultaneously with other things.
This is all i have done for Political Science-made notes and read them,and i was lucky to get the marks i did for it.