Where Volumes I and II were examinations into macro economic, social, and political changes in the Information Age, Volume III is an analysis of the world’s macrotransformations, wherein Castells interprets the sociohistorical reordering enumerated in the previous books. Going from region to region, Castells traces the processes and the infrastructural changes wrought by the network society.
For one, statism simply could not succeed in the Information Age. It just can’t cope with abstract information processing or society’s search for meaningful culture. For another, there is rising inequality and social polarization despite the overall betterment of the human experience. Entire populations have devastating relationships of distribution/consumption or appropriation of wealth, characterized by inequality, poverty, polarization, and misery (or “extreme poverty” in the social sciences). These people live in what Castells calls the Fourth World. If there are, as Castells describes in Volume I’s space of flows section, bespoke cities and spaces for the global elite in locations the world over, there are also black holes of exclusion.
Likewise, populations’ relationships with production (i.e. individualization of work, over-exploitation, social exclusion, and perverse integration) are marked by the burgeoning of global criminal activity. For Castells, even if crimes against humanity and children are as old as time, what is new is the “systematic link between the current, unchecked characteristic of [the social structure of] informational capitalism, and the destruction of lives in a large segment of the world’s children” (159).
Taking global crime networks with the weakening of the state, Castells warns that entire nations might fall to criminal interests (as was happening in Russia then and is in Mexico now). He tracks the rise of the Asian Pacific and China, their reasons for successes and failings, the development of the EU (perhaps as a defensive move against the East’s economic rise), and concludes by “making sense of our world” (356).
The three independent processes of the information technology revolution that brought us the network society: the economic crisis of capitalism and statism, and their restructuring, which led the global financial markets themselves to be one of the three types of capitalists, and the burgeoning of cultural social movements. The network society, then, has these effects on social class relationships: (1) the increase in social inequality and polarization, (2) social exclusion, (3) the weakening of the nation-state matched by its persistence, inscribed as it is in cultural codes, (4) the media as the site of cultural battles, and (5) the culture of real virtuality.