Parasitism (social offense)

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Social parasitism is a pejorative that is leveled against a group or class which is considered to be detrimental to society, by analogy with biologic parasitism, which in turn is named by analogy with ancient Greek παράσιτος (parasitos), a pejorative describing the social offense.[1]


Depending on point of view, a social parasite may be one of several classes:

Socialists have described members of the upper classes as economic parasites. The lyrics of the socialist anthem "The Internationale" include a reference to parasites.[2][citation needed]

The German Nazis viewed "races without homeland" as "parasitic races" or "Untermensch" to be eliminated. These included Romani people (sometimes called Gypsies) and Jews.[3]

Soviet Union[edit]

Russian poet Joseph Brodsky (1940–1996) was sentenced in 1964 to five years of banishment from Leningrad to Arkhangelsk Oblast for "social parasitism". In 1987 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

In the Soviet Union, which declared itself a workers' state, every adult able-bodied person was expected to work until official retirement. Thus unemployment was officially and theoretically eliminated. Those who refused to work, study or serve in another way risked being criminally charged with social parasitism (Russian: тунея́дство).[4]

In 1961, 130,000 people were identified as leading the "anti-social, parasitic way of life" in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.[5] Charges of parasitism were frequently applied to dissidents and refuseniks, many of whom were intellectuals. Since their writings were considered against the regime, the state prevented them from obtaining employment. To avoid trials for parasitism, many of them took unskilled (but not especially time-consuming) jobs (street sweepers, firekeepers, etc.), which allowed them to continue their other pursuits.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ For example, the Russian text reads: Only we, the workers of the all-world Great army of labor, Have the right to own the land, But parasites — never![citation needed]
  3. ^, Nazi Ideological Theory. See Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. 1 chapter 9 for prominent examples of the use of the word.
  4. ^ Questions of criminal responsibility for the parasitic way of life (Russian), by B.G. Pavlov, Jurisprudence, Leningrad University
  5. ^ Yevgenii Zhirnov, Внушить полезный страх (To inflict helpful fear), (Russian), Kommersant, 2011-04-25(retrieved December 26, 2001)