The development of European Social Democracy has once more attracted significant scholarly attention. This time, the debate is centred around the `third way' as the catchphrase for the transformation of European Social Democracy. Based on the experience of the Danish and Dutch Social Democrats, two questions are raised in this article, namely what has caused the renewal of Social Democracy and what explains different sequences of change in different countries? The answer to the first question is that the transformation is driven by the search for a new formula for combining social justice and effective economic governance after the failure of the Keynesian formula in the 1970s and 1980s. This, and not so much changes in the preferences of the electorate in a liberal and libertarian direction, is driving the transformation. The answer to the second question is that differences in the strategic situation of the Social Democratic parties in terms of office-seeking and holding on to power explain different sequences.