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Versailles – Absolute Architecture Of An Absolute King

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Values differ greatly across generations, cultures, genders, personalities, and many other factors (Robbins and Judge, 2010). Yet, Robbins and Judge stated, a person’s “[v]alues represent basic convictions that “a specific mode of conduct or endstate of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence” (p. 145). In fact, values are the foundation of a person’s understanding of the attitudes’ and motivation’s of others insomuch that his or her perceptions are influenced by the values he or she has (Robbins and Judge, 2011).

Each person within an organization brings his or her own values to the organization, which contains individual interpretations of what is right and wrong implying a preference for certain behaviors and outcomes thereby influencing the attitudes and behaviors of an organization (Robbins and Judge, 2011). As noted by Yukl (2010), “[i]nfluence is the essence of leadership, and powerful leaders can have a substantial impact on the lives of followers and the fate of an organization” (p. 408). The personal values and ethics of the leaders of an organization often drive the values and ethical behavior of that organization (Yukl, 2010). Thus, it is paramount the values of organizational leaders are consistent and in line with the values of their organization (Yukl, 2010).


Our team researched and evaluated the organizational values and ethics of Sutter Health. Sutter Health is a not-for-profit network of physician organizations, hospitals and other health care providers (Sutter Health, 2008). Sutter Health focuses on enhancing the well-being of individual in the communities they serve through a not-for-profit commitment to compassion and excellence in health care services (Sutter Health, 2008).

The Ethics Awareness Inventory of our team member most closely aligned with the ethical profile of character (Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment, 2011). Character-based individuals focus on qualities such as honesty, wisdom, and integrity, while their perspectives are based on personal virtue (Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment, 2011). Similarly, Sutter Health’s six core values are centered on the values of honesty and integrity (Sutter Health, 2008). Sutter Health’s focus on honesty and integrity drives the organization’s mission to act openly and truthfully in everything they do (Sutter Health, 2008). This similarity between our team member and Sutter Health to focus on individual qualities results in the perspectives that good individual or organizations demonstrate good actions and good intent based on good individual or organizational character is more important than good outcomes.

Sutter Health’s six core values centered on honesty and integrity focus on a commitment to the community by working to understand and best serve the diverse needs of their communities while treating others they serve and one another with concern, kindness and respect (Sutter Health, 2008). Our team member’s Ethical Awareness Inventory aligned least with equity, which is committed to fairness to all involved, a wider sense of community, and respect for diversity (Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment, 2011). While our team member tends to look beyond an individual’s actions to examine their character when determining whether the individual’s actions are ethical, Sutter Health focuses on a set of principles that govern the ethical behavior of the organization as a whole and the individuals within to ensure as few individuals as possible with be harmed by the organization’s actions.


Sutter Health’s and our team member’s values and ethical perspectives differ in certain areas because Sutter Health focuses on the greatest good for all involved while our team member focuses on the character of the individual making the decision. As a result, there are many scenarios in which a different ethical decision would be reached by our team member and by the organization.

A scenario that often arises in the healthcare context is one relating to community benefits. Community benefits are services that provide treatment and/or promote health and healing as a response to community needs, especially to the needs of special populations (Sutter Health, 2008). Many times individuals in the community that do not have a need take advantage of these services because the qualifying presentment of a need, in many instances, requires very little evidence that a need truly exists. As a result, some individuals that do not have a need for services provided through such a program often receive services.


Based on the character-based profile of our team member, he would consider each individual situation and the character of that person before allowing services to be granted (Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment, 2011). Our team member focuses on honesty and integrity above all else and would develop a set of rules to ensure organization’s reputation is protected and the right thing is done with those attempting to take advantage of the situation, while ensuring equal opportunity to the program is not compromised.

Moreover, because our team member looks for evidence that an individual is really a good person-deep down inside-and that goodness is evident in their character, he believes the process of living out one’s values is more important than the outcome of a decision (Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment, 2011). As a result, our team member may support not granting benefits to those attempting to take advantage of the program as an opportunity to teach a lesson that honesty and integrity are more important than receiving benefits one might not deserve.


As a not-for-profit healthcare organization, Sutter Health is focused on providing the same high-quality care and treatment at their facilities regardless of an individual’s ability to pay and the greater good (Sutter Health, 2008). According to the Ethics Awareness Inventory, these commitments tend to lead to the perspective that what counts most is common agreement about that which positively affects the future of society (Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment, 2011). An organization that focuses on what most positively affects society as a whole is less concerned with ensuring each individual need is scrutinized because if a need did not exist that individual would not be seeking the services being offered.

Additionally, Sutter Health’s perspective is more aligned with the profile of equity, which tends to discount absolutes such as good people do good things (Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment, 2011). Sutter Health may lean towards the idea that good people may at times feel overwhelmed and make bad decisions, such as attempting to claim a service that is desired but not needed, but those people should not be punished for a failure to understand the difference between a need and desire. In the end, it is more important for Sutter Health to help as many people as possible, deserving or otherwise, than to turn even one person away for being dishonest about whether the need existed.


While the values of an individual help shape the values of an organization, the mission, goals, and ethics of an organization may override those values. This is especially true when a character-based individual leads an organization that is more aligned with the equity Ethics Awareness profile. Our team learned that there may be scenarios in which individual values may need to be put aside for the betterment of society or in helping an organization achieve its goal of providing services to those in need.


Robbins, S. P. & Judge, T. A. (2011). Organizational behavior (14th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Sutter Health. (2008). _Our Commitment to Community Benefit_. Retrieved from http://www.sutterhealth.org

Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment. (2011). Ethics Awareness Inventory. Retrieved from Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment, MGT521-Management course website.

Yukl, G. (2010). Leadership in organizations (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.


Louis XIV’s France was an absolute monarchy, meaning the king had the power, control, finances and the nation in his hands more then ever before. In the 17th century, France was the strongest and wealthiest nation in Europe, and the head of the state, the king, was the most influential person of the time. In the ideas of the scientific revolution and the soon-coming changes of the enlightenment the country was developing. For a few decades France was not involved in any major wars or battles and the peace helped the population grow fast.

Life in Paris however was nothing like we think of it today. The overpopulated capital suffered from lack of space, diseases, and many other problems caused by urbanization. The royal court was located in the centre of paris, making the king live an isolated life because of all the issues previously mentioned. The only logical solution was to move the court with all the people to a new, fresh and open location, matching the rank of them.

The palace of Versailles is a building complex in the city of Versailles, right outside of Paris. It was an often visited royal hunting place of Louis XIII. It is now one of the biggest palaces in the world, which once served as the home of the French royalty. Its building began in the 17th century when the chateau and the surrounding parks were constructed. Later Louis XIV decided to expand the building and make it the center of the king and the governing location of the French monarchy. Louis XV added new parts as well, which made the former lodge look more or less as it does today; glorious and powerful.

The absolute center of an absolute king

In Louis Marin’s analysis of the royal palace the emphasis is on the meaning of the place; how this high place of baroque architecture set a classical model for its time, and how every little detail of it represented the Prince (the king), and his ideals. The construction which was perfectly defined in itself was born into international mannerism, started off as classicism and ended up being neo-classic at its peak at around 1750.

The architecture of the prince represents the place of his greatest power. The reading tries to distinguish the tension between baroque and classical and how the state power is expressed and constructed. The king as the architectural is the subject of Versailles, where the kingdom receives its most perfect concentration. This is where the king is not only the absolute political power and the leader of his nation but also the center of the universe and eternity. With this standing in the background the construction becomes real, imaginary and symbolic at once.

In the following text I will try to explain how “Versailles works” with the help of the three main notions of the study. First, the place and its relation to space and time – location and historical background. Second, the power’s relation to representation – how superiority is shown. And finally the monumentality – how all this becomes absolute.


The first part of the reading focuses on this triple meaning, three terms that are related to one another and that make up one of the major principles of the construction.

How is a place different from space? To start off we need to understand the meaning of place (lieu). It is in the Aristotelean definition a primary and immobile surface of a body which surrounds another – _the space in which the body is placed_. The spot intended for setting something either by nature or by art. It designates to a fixed and determined spot which one wishes to mark and distinguish. A place also serves as a center or in this case a country seat (chef-lieu) – a principal manor house to which one is obligated to bring fidelity and respect. The seventeenth century sociocultural understanding of the term can also help us in deeper understanding; a place distinguished by the privileges attributed to the various uses it is intended for. In the sense of origin it can represent differentiating as one comes from a good place or is connected to it. What does this all mean? It can be something that is extraordinary and requires respect. Places that imply stability and produce laws.

Looking further we face the problem of space as such. It is something that is animated by the movements within it or the effect produced by operations of its orientation. If place is location then space is the dimensions of it, the position in which the palace was constructed. Space is more of a three dimensional term because it is determined by the operations which specify it. Considering this we still need to keep in mind that Louis XIV in his palace is immobile and a sovereign figure who beams eternity and unchangeability. This is where we understand the importance of the place related to the absolutism of the king. And while space is rather linked to an action or a process of history, place is the conclusion of the entire action. Simply put space is the largeness of the palace complex. It is what, after realizing the importance of the location, amazes the traveler.

The third component is event, which is a result of a project. It is the outcome of an action and therefore is closely related to place in a sense that both conclude a momentum. It can be a momentous thing, surprising and singular. In the seventeenth century, baroque helped to raise this event even higher. With all the style’s sophistication and uniqueness Versailles became a never-forgettable experience.

Power representation

The second principle of the study is divided into two major notions – power and representation. We must understand the relationship between the two in order to sense the meaning of the architecture of the king. When constructing and designing the palace political power and state power was tried to be represented and what better display is there then the grand facade. Through this the building becomes a machine for producing effects. But how does the exchange between power and representation function? – could we ask.

To represent means to show, to intensify or redouble presence. If power is the moment when representation comes into play then the _apartment_ of the king must be at a good location, a central position which in themselves make the authorizing and justifying work. State power as for an absolute monarch is concentrated in this representation of the king. Representation’s further effect is the power itself and this infinite work of art can be the sphere of the nation in a figurative sense.

The monument, event memorial and tomb of presence

In the EncyclopĂ©die chevalier de Jeaucourt calls monument any work of architecture or sculpture intended to preserve memory of illusions of men or great events, such as a mausoleum, a pyramid or a triumphal arch. The class of a monument can represented by the greatness of one who was its participant and his memory is what it reveals. Seeking infinite perfection, the possible duplicate of the king’s glory is its greatest task.

In many ways did Versailles fulfill these requirements. Just by its construction and position it is the entryway into Paris, an immutable gesture of appropriating the city to the monarch.

As an event memorial the palace can serve as a kind of a tomb, with the event here being the domination and life of Louis XIV. It is, symbolically, the place of the dead, since tombs are erected (or _used) at one’s life’s end to_ commemorate the greatness. If even partially the king’s intention of the construction was representing absolute power or sovereignty we can call it successful. We can see how a tomb was needed for the prince with these ideals but the palace was designed to keep the memory alive and present. The assistant of a prince who will be absent, lost or dead will bring him back in his best form. This site can therefore better than a tomb remind all of the excellence. The building was built in a way that not even a notion of death can be felt and everything effuses the presence of its owner, and is full of life and eternity.

The palace at Versailles: the World transubstantiated into royal body -Conclusion

As we can see, the palace and the park of Versailles really is monumental. Everything relates to everything and every little detail is perfectly planned to represent the King and his country. The power, the glory and the perfectness of his existence. This can be found everywhere in the site.

For example the layout of the small park (petit park) can be considered the projection of the king implied in geographical space. The development of the grid system put all the surroundings in their proper place making it look like it was intentionally (or unintentionally) planned this way. This is the production of symbolism, the place of power and greatness. The king can be found everywhere and nowhere throughout Versailles. Nowhere because he is not _physically_ present (not talking about the forced absence caused by the French revolution from 1750), and everywhere because everything wears the marks of his mind, of his ideals, confidence and his beliefs.

“Since the sun was the device of the king…there is nothing in this superb house that does not relate to his dignity” (A. FĂ©libien). And truly, the sun is the center image and the object in the entire complex, the image and the symbol founded in the very location. The order of the places is a great tool to offer amazing vistas. And this legitimation that would be accomplished at Versailles is what we define as “French classic”.


Classical, Baroque: Versailles, or the Architecture of the Prince Author(s): Louis Marin and Anna Lehman Source: Yale French Studies, No. 80, Baroque Topographies: Literature/History/Philosophy (1991), pp. 167-182 Published by: Yale University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2930266

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