As far as I understand, there are two broad branches of critical theory: one is based on social theory, and the other on literary criticism and hermeneutics. I am more interested in the latter, of the kind that's been taught to a generation of American liberal-arts students. However, although I am comfortable with the emphasis on language, through the analytic (at least in my mind) roots of Wittgenstein, Chomsky, and Kripke, I am not very comfortable or familiar with continental philosophy. Whenever I try to read critical theory, I cannot really keep up with the vague and (what seems to me) masturbatory language.

Is there a good historic overview of the development and current trends in critical theory that is geared towards analytic philosophers?

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Perhaps read Marx and Weber first? Otherwise it is indeed impossible to follow Adorno and Habermas. I don't know what one would have to do to "understand" Derida, Deleuze and Foucault. A lot of it traces back to Marx, Nietzsche and Freud. All this is a complete mess, and I have decided to stay out of it. (Marx, Nietzsche, Freud I certainly find worth reading). Derrida and Deleuze surely have mastered the principle of confusing the mind through language. I have read something by a Deleuze follower, something which I would not do again.

Anyway, if I had to pick one to read, it would be Lévi-Strauss. Perhaps there is somewhere a good discussion on the analytic tradition versus continental philosophy. Something like Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction by Simon Critchley, might save some headaches.

This distinction only becomes important after the world war 2, because Husserl and Frege were very important for the analytic tradition (see Dummett's origins of analytic philosophy). There was in the 60s a discussion between Chomsky and Foucault. I think this sheds some light on the very different schools of thought. Today, in Germany, there is almost no trace of analytic philosophy to be found, with the exception of the work of Mr. Metzinger in Mainz on consciousness.

However to answer the question here some names from the Frankfurt school and some recent works.

  • Jürgen Habermas - Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns (1981)
  • Oskar Negt - Keine Demokratie ohne Sozialismus (1976)
  • Ulrich Oeverman - Sprache und soziale Herkunft (1970)
  • Alfred Schmidt - Existenzialistische Marx-Interpretation (1973)
  • Albrecht Wellmer - Ethik und Dialog (1986)
  • Rainer Forst - Unterwegs zu einer Diskurstheorie der Gerechtigkeit (2009)
  • Klaus Günther - Schuld und kommunikative Freiheit (2005)
  • Axel Honneth - Das Recht der Freiheit (2011)
  • Martin Seel - Adornos Philosophie der Kontemplation (2004),
  • Lutz Wingert - Gemeinsinn und Moral (1993).
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    "Today, in Germany, there is almost no trace of analytic philosophy to be found, with the exception of the work of Mr. Metzinger in Mainz on consciousness." That's an exaggeration, see the German society for analytic philosophy gap-im-netz.de
    – DBK
    Commented Dec 30, 2012 at 20:52

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