He studied maths and physics at Berlin and Kiel, then philosophy and sociology at Heidelberg and Frankfurt. He was an assistant to Jürgen Habermas at the University of Frankfurt from 1966 to 1970. He has held Professorships at the Universität Konstanz, the New School for Social Research and at the Freie Universität Berlin. He has held guest Professorships at Haverford, Stony Brooke, Collège International de Philosophie, the New School of Social Research and the Universiteit van Amsterdam.
In 2006 he received the Theodor W. Adorno Award, a prestigious award for achievement in philosophy, theatre, music, and film.