Human societies are self-interpreting institutions. Historically, this hermeneutical work has fallen to priests, philosophers, and artists who were gradually usurped by scientists, lawyers, economists, and sociologists. This, of course, is not an undisputed shift, although we generally accommodate to it by allowing scientists their say-so with respect to nature, while clinging to our own right to an opinion on religion, politics, business, and the arts. In these areas, too, there are advocates for the dominance of scientific discourse, who seek to persuade us that laymen can at best chatter upon the nature of society. Those who favour the analogy between nature and society as the dumb material of science are therefore inconvenienced by the seemingly inextricable relation between ordinary language and social reality. Indeed, they are likely to consider those who stress the constitutively spoken nature of human society to be idealists, romantically tied to convention and conservatism. In practice, the scientistic ambitions of sociology are well entrenched in Western societies, politicians having persuaded laymen and themselves that the complexities of modern living can only be settled through a trustful delegation of analysis and initiative to the technical sciences. But today there is a civic tendency to question the bureaucratic processing of everyday life. To keep pace, professional voices have risen to question the scientistic model of constructivist sociology as an expropriation of an ordinary civic competence with the sensible conduct of human affairs. To keep on top of these developments, even self-styled critical sociologists find themselves having to straddle the double claims of scientific and common-sense accounts of social life.