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Political Change: Definition & Explanation

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  • 0:00 Political Change Defined
  • 0:46 Types of Political Change
  • 2:45 Historical Examples of…
  • 4:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Anthony Jordan

Anthony has taught Political Science at the university level and is working on his Ph.D. in Political Science.

This lesson examines political changes with specific focus on the definition of political change, types of political changes, and examples of political changes. When you are through, check your understanding by taking the short quiz.

Political Change Defined

Political change occurs when the rulers in a country lose power or the type of governance in the country changes. Governance is the type of system used to rule a country. Examples of types of governance would be democracy and monarchy.

Political change is a normal function of internal and external politics. Rulers will be voted out, retire, or die while in power, and the new leader will make changes. The more powerful countries will anticipate political change and make the process clear and smooth. Countries that appear more prone to in-fighting and/or civil wars are likely led by a person or group that refuses to allow political change or lacks a clear understand of how political change is to occur.

Types of Political Change

There are two ways in which political change may occur: internally or externally. You should realize, however, that both types of political change can occur at the same time to create a mixed political change.

Internal political change is initiated by citizens of the country. It can be done through regular events, such as elections and rulers choosing to hand power over, or through irregular events, such as a coup d'etat or a rebellion.

A coup d'etat is an illegal overthrow of the government that almost always involves the country's military. It differs from a rebellion by the personnel involved. Coups usually involve top political and/or military figures leading the overthrow while rebellions could be started by individuals with little to no power. Coups are also more likely to keep the style of governance or make minor changes while rebellions would be more likely to want major changes in governance.

External political change is initiated by other countries. It is usually achieved through military threats or action but could occur through embargoes and/or withholding foreign aid. If it is achieved by the military, then a new leader will be placed in charge by the victorious, foreign power. The victorious country may also choose to change the style of governance as well.

Political changes can also occur when political, military, or rebellion leaders in a country receive support from a foreign country. The foreign country will likely talk to the leaders to ensure that the next leaders and/or style of governance is preferable. If it is, then the foreign power will supply weapons and other kinds of aid, such as money, naval blockades, military leadership training, and, as seen recently, airstrikes, to the leaders attempting to take power. This would be preferable to an external political change to a foreign country because it is usually less expensive in terms of money and lives lost.

Historical Examples of Political Change

Political change is not just a conceptual idea. It occurs frequently, and examples of each kind are easy to find in history.

A regular, internal political change could be seen during the 2014 elections in the United States. The Republicans took control of the Senate and, thus, controlled the entire legislative branch. This change was possible because of the regular elections for national office that occur every two years.

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