Strategy to approach GS Society in General Studies

What is it?
Society refers to the changing pattern of social relationships. It is a system of usages and procedures, of authority and mutual aid, of many groupings and divisions, of controls of human behavior and of liberties. It unfolds as it evolves; involving both continuity and change. Moreover, a society like ours is not only plural and diverse, but also unequal.

Society and man being co-existent, it is important to question and understand why and how society functions the way it does. It is also critical to understand society, since it is the context in which everything takes place. This makes it important to think, reflect and relate to its various facets.


Why in Examination?
It is hardly any surprise that UPSC has included Society in the General Studies section of Mains. It is no secret that the plans, policies, programmes and schemes formulated and implemented by the government, seldom lead to the desired objectives. A good understanding of Society will not only help civil servants better understand the underlying reasons of the events happening around them, but also ensure that the government’s objectives are more effectively achieved, in tune with the elements of continuity and change our social environment is composed

Thus, the following need to be kept in mind while studying the topic of Society:
1. To relate whatever is studied in G.S. with the outside environment.
2. To enable ourselves to observe and interpret social life.
3. To be aware of the complexity of social processes.
4. To appreciate diversity in the Indian Society, as well as the world at large.
5. To build our capacity in understanding and analyzing the changes in the contemporary Indian Society.

The Examination Perspective
Discussing the Society section from an examination perspective by looking at the syllabus of Mains in detail, along with the past few years’ papers, one gets a fair bit of idea on what and how to prepare for the exam.
The following books can be read for specific chapters as mentioned in Basic References:
Class XI NCERT: Introducing Sociology
Class XI NCERT: Understanding Sociology
Class XII NCERT: Indian Society
Class XII NCERT: Social Change and Development in India
Class XII NCERT: Fundamentals of Human Geography (FOHG)
Class XII NCERT: India, People and Economy (IPE)
NIOS – Senior Secondary Course in Sociology
NIOS –Secondary Course in Social Science
Keeping track of related articles in The Hindu, Yojana etc.

The complete NCERTs (specifically of Sociology) need not be read, as they are highly technical and can create unnecessary confusion. However, they can be given a complete reading after gaining a holistic and integrated understanding.

One important thing that needs to be constantly kept in mind is that one must go through the syllabus along with the questions asked in Mains, before and after completing each section. This will help in ensuring that based on your understanding; you pick up the most relevant aspects from the examination perspective.

This will also help in building confidence that you would be able to answer the questions, UPSC has asked from those sections. If you could answer the present set of questions, there is no reason why you will not be able to answer the questions that would be asked in the future. Just one more important thing – you also need to practice answer writing and hone your presentation skills.

Another note of caution is that the data available in these books is generally old. So one should not pick the data from NCERTs and should rather refer the latest India Year Book (published by the Government of India, Publication Division) and Economic Survey of the given year, Census 2011 and updated government sources (websites).

Since the questions on this topic are not usually factual, rather mostly conceptual and application oriented, so our focus should be more towards developing conceptual clarity and learning how to apply key concepts to real world problems.

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