This essay discusses that the concept proves crucial to the sociological and cultural dynamic that pervades modernity. The consequences of this "feeling" are nefarious and multi-faceted. One such consequence allows confidence men or con artists to gain significant leverage and traction in contemporary society. In order to explicate this condition in society, this paper will first examine the theoretical features of slave morality and ressentiment as outlined by Nietzsche. Next, an inquiry into how these phenomena manifest itself in society in such a way to promulgate the appearance of such individuals and the reasons for their success. To this end, a presentation of Herman Melville's work, The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade will be presented in order elucidate the types and operating structures of con artists and confidence games. In conjunction, it will be important to discuss what archetypes Nietzsche defines such as the "Priest," the "Philosopher" and the "Artist" in reference to con artists while simultaneously highlighting the features of the con artists' mark, which will be shown to be the herd. In doing so this paper will show that the techniques con artists deploy in order to become effective are not significantly different from those deployed by Nietzsche's archetypes. It is understood that Nietzsche's genealogical method has been incisively criticized; nevertheless, Nietzsche's program does offer a worthwhile perspective in which to analyze the interplay between the con and the mark.
One might question the leveraging of a fictional text, Melville's in order to explicate a real cultural phenomenon, the existence of con artists. Nietzsche's arguments as they are presented offer a mytho-tectonic analysis of the semiotic manifestation of the Slave and Master moralities. Insofar that these manifestations have occurred in society is without doubt; however, the true affectivity of the symbols lies in their ability to manipulate and massage the consciousnesses of individuals in that society and nowhere is the documentation that symbolic manipulation more evident than in the literary efforts of humanity.
He articulates more fully the characteristics of Slave and Master Moralities in his work Beyond Good and Evil. They both revolve around their respective abilities to "will to power," this creative/destructive force which drives all human activity. Slave morality and the concept of morality must be understood broadly here to include all kinds of human activity, represent the behaviors of those who are unable to will their own desires directly and must "get around" as it were through subversion and cunning. The essence of Master morality is nobility. Actions are judged by their value or non-value for the master himself. In slave morality, actions are judged by their intention, namely their intention to harm or not harm the slave.