The creation of a new form of social space was related to the disappearance of leprosy. Foucault sees confinement as a series of social and economic measures that surround certain people and tendencies. Foucault sees society as creating a kind of safe place where it put those who it saw as abnormal: criminals, those who do not work and the mad. Unreason, or the irrational included all these people. They were not confined because they need medical attention, or out of humanitarian concern, but because the power of the state needs to control them. It needs to do this because by separating them from "normal" society the state helps to define itself. Only by controlling the abnormal can the "normal" exist. This is a theme that Foucault returns to in almost all his work. In Discipline and Punish, for example, he explains the rise of the prison system in similar terms.
The realignment of madness is central to Foucault's explanation of confinement. In the classical period madness became part of a wider class of social deviancy, which was defined by its relationship to work. Foucault argues that the mad did not really exist as a separate group, but only as part of a wider deviancy. Criminals and the idle were inseparable from madmen.
The contemporary European political context is central to Foucault's argument. Houses of confinement emerged at a time when European states were expanding and exercising greater control over their citizens. In a way, confinement is linked to the creation of larger armies, and more sophisticated methods of collecting taxes. All of these phenomena express a desire to control, and to define people. However, the problems of a more sophisticated economy were also important. Foucault emphasizes the importance of economics and morality in explaining the development of confinement.
Fundamentally, those who were confined had a negative relationship with labor and the economy. Increasing economic sophistication and production led to cities wanting to resolved labor problems; those who did not want to work were problematic. The seventeenth century economic crisis that Foucault describes was serious and widespread. It involved high inflation, harvest shortages and was matched by political crises in many countries. Confinement was a one response to these problems. An age that tried to define "normality" in terms of economic productivity attempted to isolate and exclude those who could not or would not produce.
But Foucault also stresses the moral dimension of confinement. Economic development was supported by an ethical theory that argued that work was morally good. This was only partly a Christian theory. Morality and work were closely linked, and so those who were confined became bad people. The police, as a series of measures that allowed work to take place, had a moral dimension because law and custom disapproved of idleness and insanity. A great transformation took place. From being integrated into the world at the end of the seventeenth century, madness in the classical period was silenced and isolated. It was not allowed to speak, and was seen as a moral and economic evil. Similarly, the concept of unreason was extended include a wide range of "dangerous" people.