Discipline and Punish – The Birth of the Prison (1975) is one of the most known works of Michel Foucault published. Here the French philosopher focuses on the social mechanisms behind the changes that occurred in the occidental penal system during the modern age, using France as a case study. Relying on academic publications, legal documents and political discourses dating back to the early 1700s, he elucidates on the history of punishment in France, beginning with the spectacle of public execution, corporal punishment and public exposure and ending with the institution of forcible confinement and denial of freedoms under the authority of the state, the institution of prison.
Foucault rejects the belief that the birth of the prison is not a humanitarian reform on methods punishment. Instead, he argues, that the prison system cultivates a new logic of domination upon individual beings, a logic that is even visible in other social places, such as schools, hospitals, and military barracks. All these spaces share a common type of organization which enhances the growth of disciplinary societies.