This book is a PhD dissertation and a very personal book at the same time. It asks the question whether society can and should be a point of orientation ("Bezugspunkt") for the human individual. Please note, that this cannot be a scientific book: If sociology is defined as society observed by society (or by sociologists, who are the agents of society), society observed by a single person (and for the aim of this single person) cannot be scientific. This is also true if the researcher adheres to reason and scientific methodology: observations and understanding created by the human individual for its own private purposes simply are not scientific because they lack universality.
"Bezugspunkt Gesellschaft" studies a number of different strains of sociology (and their scientific representatives, e.g. Pierre Bourdieu, Niklas Luhmann, Ralf Dahrendorf, Norbert Elias, Berger/Luckmann) in order to find out what it is that sociology studies? Is sociology the study of a society of human beings? Or is it true that society does not consist of human beings, but, as Luhmann claims, of acts of communication? Or is it true, as Bourdieu claims, that society consists of the instances of freedom abandoned half willingly, half out of habitude, by human individuals like in the case of a coffeehouse waiter who over time has just given up the idea that he could be anything else than a coffeehouse waiter.
This book was inspired by a deconstructivist method of analysis in the field of literary theory where researchers state that it is of no interest what the author of a book wanted to say. Instead we should treat the work of literature as if the society of the author's epoch had written it. This theoretical "murder" of the human being in the form of the authors of works of literature in literary theory might have its analogy in sociology: Maybe sociology is also, like literary theory, not about people?
However, if sociology is not about people - what can sociology teach us, us people?
The book looks at different concepts of society throughout history, starting from the ancient concept that society is community, or that it is a circle of friendships, to more modern and dystopian concepts like that society is some kind of unhuman society.
The book ends with the "Balzac machine", representing the incredibly talented and prolific French author Honoré de Balzac as a person who was an expert in the study of society and entirely blind to the phenomenon of society at the same time. The paradox of Balzac manifested itself in the fact that he literally worked himself to death in an attempt to gain society's recognition.