Apart from a summer semester in Zurich, I studied in Göttingen and Bonn between 1949 and 1954. As far as my areas of study were concerned, there was an almost unbroken continuity of subject-matter and personnel stretching
During these years as Adorno’s assistant, between 1956 and 1959, there evolved what later crystallized in the empirical investigations of Student und Politik, and in my first two books (Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit and Theory and Practice)—the attempt to continue the Hegelian and Weberian Marxism of the nineteen-twenties with other means. All this remained within the context of a very German tradition, or at least of one rooted in Germany—even though at the time, through my contact with Adorno and Horkheimer, and later with Abendroth and Mitscherlich, I lived with a sense of having grown into different, decisively broader horizons of experience, of having been freed from provincial narrowness and a naively idealistic world.
In Heidelberg, from 1961 on, Gadamer’s Truth and Method helped me to find my way back into academic philosophy. Hermeneutics interested me, on the one hand, in connection with questions of the logic of the social sciences, and on the other in comparison with the later philosophy of Wittgenstein. This was the period, therefore, of my first more intensive involvement with linguistic philosophy and analytical philosophy of science. Encouraged by my friend Apel, I also studied Peirce,
In the mid-sixties Cicourel and ethnomethodology led me back to Schütz. At that time I viewed social phenomenology as a proto-sociology, carried out in the form of analyses of the life-world. This idea connected up with influences from another direction: I was fascinated both by Chomsky’s programme for a general theory of grammar, and by Austinian speech-act theory, as systematized by Searle. All this suggested the idea of a universal pragmatics, with the aid of which I wanted above all to deal with the awkward fact that the normative foundations of the critical theory of society were entirely unclarified. Having rejected the orthodoxy of the philosophy of history, I had no wish to lapse back either into ethical socialism, or into scientism, or indeed into both at once. This explains why I hardly read Althusser. In the second half of the sixties, thanks to collaboration with accomplished co-workers like Offe and Oevermann, I worked my way into specific areas of sociology, primarily socialization and family research on the one hand, political sociology on the other. In the process I got to know Parsons better. I was already reading Piaget and Kohlberg, but it was only at our Starnberg Institute, that is, after 1971, that I became an adherent of genetic structuralism. It was also here that I first began a more intensive study of Weber.
So you can see that from the outset my theoretical interests have been consistently determined by those philosophical and socio-theoretical problems which arise out of the movement of thought from Kant through to Marx. My intentions and fundamental convictions were given their stamp by Western Marxism in the mid-fifties, through a coming-to-terms with Lukács, Korsch and Bloch, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, and of course with Horkheimer, Adorno and Marcuse. Everything else which I have made my own has only acquired its significance in connection with the project of a renewal of the theory of society grounded in this tradition.