“Essential Sociology” Book Review: Sociology is one of the optional subjects that one can take for the Mains Exam of Civil Services Exam. In the list of 26 optional subjects, Sociology remains the most popular choice among the UPSC aspirants. Sociology optional syllabus for the Mains Examination is divided into two- Paper I and Paper-II. Paper I comprises the core sociological concepts, whereas Paper II deals with Indian society. The reason for its popularity is plenty in number.
What should I study for Sociology optional?
- Does not require any prior training
Aspirants of UPSC do not belong to any fixed group. The group of people who opt to give this exam is diversified in various fields of academia. Studying sociology does not require any prior knowledge of the subject.
- Helps in building writing skills
It helps significantly in improving writing skills. Having sociology as your optional will help you to articulate their thoughts and reasoning with clarity.
- A high scoring subject
You can never score very low in this subject because the answers will always be subjective. Even if you know little about the question asked, you can formulate and elaborate your answers with supporting examples to present your case.
- Overlap with the syllabus if General Study
It helps you prepare better for the papers of General Study since both the subjects focus on society and its happenings. The syllabus for Sociology Paper II overlaps with the contents of the General Study, which discusses the field of social issues such as land reforms, various kinds of movements and protests, etc.
- Do better at Interview
Sociological thinking improves your articulation skill which makes you better at speaking. Thus, it helps you prepare for your interview round. When you have a better understanding of what is happening around you and why you can put forth a better response in front of the interviewers.
- Easy to prepare for
The syllabus is not very vast. It can be completed in four to five months without any coaching. Adding to this, the material to study Sociology is easily available both in online and offline mode.
- Relevance for the job
Clearing the exam would mean that you will get a job where you will have to deal with people and society on a day-to-day basis. Having Sociology as your optional subject teaches you about the functioning of human society, which helps you interpret the societal norms and practices with better precision.
About “Essential Sociology Book by Seema and Nitin Sangwan “
Essential Sociology by Seema and Nitin Sangwan is a 558-page long book that costs around Rs. 300 to 500. It is available both as a paperback and PDF. The first edition of the book was published in the year 2017. The author of the book is Nitin Sangwan, who is an IAS officer of the 2016 batch. He was able to bag the 28th rank and is currently serving in the Gujarat cadre. He has also done his MBA from IIT Madras and is a former Engineering student. The book is co-authored by his wife Seema, who is a dentist by profession. She is also an avid reader who is a passionate reader and writer. Her interest lies in social issues and current affairs, such as environmental issues, social movements, etc.
Prior to the existence of this book, it was a challenge to gather all the resources to study Sociology for the Mains exam. There was no one single source where aspirants can get the information that covered the entire syllabus. By writing and publishing this book, Seema and Nitin Sangwan solved this hectic struggle. Since it is written by an IAS himself, this book covers the entire syllabus of Sociology optional as prescribed by UPSC. Hence, you will not find anything irrelevant while studying. This is a comprehensive book designed for the aspirants of the Civil Services Examination, although it can also be useful for the preparation of NET/JRF. The book is divided into two parts. Both parts cover the topics which are necessary for clearing the two optional papers. Part I of the book deliberates on the syllabus allocated for Paper I of Sociology optional, and Part II of the book focuses on covering the syllabus for Paper II.
The following topics are covered in the book “Essential Sociology” by Seema and Nitin Sangwan:
- Sociology- The Discipline
- Sociology as Science
- Research Methods
- Social Thinkers
- Stratification & Mobility
- Work & Economic life
- Politics & Society
- Religion & Society
- Systems of Kinship
- Social Change in Modern Society
- Perspectives on Study of Indian Society
- Impact of Colonial Rule on Indian Society
- Social Structure
- Tribal Communities in India
- Social Classes in India
- System of Kinship in India
- Religion & Society
- Vision of Social Change in India
- Rural & Agrarian Transformation in India
- Industrialisation & Urbanisation in India
- Politics & Society
- Social Movements in Modern India
- Population Dynamics
- Challenges of Social transformation
Even though Essential Sociology is indeed an essential book for the preparation of the Civil Services Exam, this book has both its benefits and shortcomings.
Strengths of the book
With having to cover many subjects for the preparation of the exam and limited time, Nitin Sangwan understands the importance of being able to comprehend what you read. Thus, the language used in the book is simple and easy to understand.
- Written according to the syllabus
Being an ex-aspirant himself, the author knows the gravity of sticking to the syllabus and being able to complete it. Therefore, all the topics covered in the book are strictly as per the syllabus and nothing gets left out. The chapters are arranged systematically according to the syllabus.
- Bonus after every chapter
As you keep on completing the chapters and moving forward you need to make sure that you retain what you studied. Each chapter ends with a detailed question bank which is very useful to revisit and then revise the chapter.
- Visually appealing
Reading continuous texts for hours at end can often become monotonous. The book is enriched with over 200 diagrams, tables, and illustrations, which makes it easier to engage, understand, and remember the content one is studying.
- Up To Date
The latest edition of the book was published in 2019, which now has 800 pages. One of the biggest advantages of this book is that it is up to date with its facts and figures. Readers can find the latest data and case studies which helps to place sociology not only in its classical version but also relate it with what is happening all around us and in the world.
Shortcomings of the book
- Lacks material for Paper II
This book is suitable for the preparation of Paper I, but it lacks the sociological understanding which is required for Paper II. The content provided for Paper II is very general in its nature. It presents a vague understanding of the issues, rather than looking at them from a critical perspective.
- Lack of expertise
Nitin Sangwan is not a professional sociologist; therefore, the book lacks the insights which can only be provided by an expert. At certain points, the explanation of concepts seems more like notes made by a student and not debates put forth by trained sociologists.
- Not the first book to pick
If you have just sat down to study for your Sociology optional, this book should not be your first book to study from. This book is more suitable for those aspirants who have a basic understanding of sociology. To get accustomed to what sociology is, it is always best to start from NCERT Class 11th and 12th Sociology course books.
The sources for accumulating knowledge are infinite. Ironically, so many times people are also heard saying that the syllabus of UPSC is everything below the sky. Consequently, to prepare for any subject for clearing the Civil Service Exam, an aspirant cannot rely on a single source or a single book. Similarly, to prepare the optional paper of Sociology, only reading Essential Sociology would not be enough. A single book cannot capture the vast world of the discipline of Sociology. Study from multiple books and resources in order to perform your best.
There are a number of books and references (apart from Essential Sociology) which are the most popular choices among the aspirants who chose Sociology as their optional, such as:
Sociology Optional Book List
At Beginner’s Level
- NCERT Class 11th and 12th Sociology books
- IGNOU Material
For Sociology Optional Paper I
- Introduction to Sociology by Anthony Giddens
- Sociological Theory by George Ritzer
- Sociology Themes and Perspectives by Haralambos & Holborn
- A Dictionary of Sociology by John Scott
- Sociological Thought by Francis Abraham and John Henry Morgan
- An Introduction to Political Theory by O P Gauba
For Sociology Optional Paper-II
- Social Change in Modern India by M N Srinivas
- Caste Its Twentieth Century Avatar by M N Srinivas
- Handbook of Indian Sociology by Veena Das
- Indian Society: Themes and Social Issues by Nadeem Hasnain
- Modernization of Indian Tradition by Yogendra Singh
- Rural Sociology by S.L Doshi and P.C Jain
- Social Background of Indian Nationalism by A R Desai
You’ll need three things: a) syllabus of Sociology optional prescribed by UPSC b) previous year question papers, and c) Essential Sociology. As you begin to study, make sure to cross-check whatever you’re studying with the syllabus and the past year’s question papers to check for their level of relevancy. Patience and hard work are the keys to excelling in UPSC.