Although today's western societies are commonly characterized as highly individualized, two institutional consequences have hardly been addressed yet. They are therefor the focus of this issue of the Sociologisch Gids. First, it is studied how political parties and churches, two former 'peak institutions' that almost by themselves used to control an entire life domain, adjust to the newly emerged circumstances. Second, it is studied what behavioral patterns emerge within the political and religious domains to fill the void left by the decline of those peak institutions. By way of introduction to the four papers that address those two questions for the Low Countries, this introduction discusses the principal changes that have occured within both realms and the moral controversies that institutional decline and change inevitably gives rise to.