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Political Change: Definition, Purpose & Types

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  • 0:01 What Is Political Change?
  • 1:05 Causes for Political Change
  • 2:36 Types of Political Change
  • 5:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason Nowaczyk
The following lesson discusses how political change is a powerful force in politics. Some key types of political change are also discussed. A short quiz will follow the lesson to check your understanding.

What Is Political Change?

Change is pretty common in our everyday lives. We change the channel on our TVs to find our favorite shows; we change our clothes to suit the weather; we may even change our minds about what we want to eat for dinner tonight. These types of changes are small and somewhat common; however, there are other types of changes that are much bigger and do not happen frequently.

Big changes in your life may be to move to a new city, state, or country, or a change in jobs. You can even try really hard to change who runs the government. In fact, that last type of change is probably one of the biggest a group of people can experience. When there is a significant disruption in a government that leads to new or modified leadership or policies, we call this type of change political change.

Political change is so important because our government controls many different aspects of our lives. In the following parts of this lesson, we will briefly discuss the purpose and causes of most political change, as well as talk about some of the different types of major political change that may happen within a government.

Causes for Political Change

Remember that we mentioned some of the smaller types of changes that we might experience on any given day, like what we want to eat for dinner? I could start by thinking that I want a big bowl of spaghetti, but then change my mind and say, 'Nah, I'm not feeling that. I'd much rather have a thick and juicy steak.' Our appetites create this friction in our minds of what we think we want and what our bodies actually need.

The same is true for major types of change like political change. If there is a group of people who feel that the government treats them unfairly and doesn't support them, while the government thinks that what they are doing is fine, then there is a friction that arises between the citizens and the government. In order to get things back into balance, either the citizens have to accept their way of life or the government has to be persuaded to do things differently. This is the purpose of political change. Political change is meant to restore balance from mismatched ideas and values between a government and the people that it leads.

Political changes most often stem from social or economic issues that a country may be facing. For instance, political change may be caused by social issues, such as the tensions between differing racial and ethnic groups or policies that deny specific groups of people civil rights. Political change may also occur if a country is suffering from economic turmoil and its citizens feel the pressure of not having enough money and feel that the government is not helping them out. This frustration then comes to a head and sparks political change.

Types of Political Change

When political change occurs, the two most common outcomes are a change in policies and a change in leadership. When a change in policy is required, we most often consider this type of political change a social movement. An example of this would be during the Civil Rights Movement that began in the 1950s. Minority groups, in particular African Americans, were upset that they were being treated as second-class citizens, and they began to place pressure on the government to change this. Some of the ways in which they pressed for change included both violent and non-violent methods. But, regardless of the methods used, a change in policy did result with the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

When political change requires a change in leadership, it can come in a variety of ways and most of them end up being violent. Three of the more major ways a change in leadership can occur is through a revolution, a coup d'etat, or a civil war.

The word revolution is usually reserved for transformations not only in the structure and leadership of a government but also to all citizens where there is a change in the social order, the moral basis, and the values of the whole society. This type of change is usually prolonged over a period of time. Some of the most famous revolutions throughout history include the English Revolution of the 17th century, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Russian Revolution. These revolutions were so famous because they permanently altered the beliefs by which people live and also influenced the societies and governments of other countries experiencing similar issues.

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