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This article describes parasitism as a social offense in human society. For parasitism in the biological sense, see Parasitism.

Social parasite is a derogatory term denoting a group or class in society which is considered to be detrimental to others, by taking advantage of them in some way.

General concept

In various countries at various times, especially during periods of social unrest, such as the French Revolution or Russian Revolution, whole social classes, such as the aristocracy, bourgeoisie and particularly rentiers were accused of living off unearned income, and hence declared parasitic, as opposed to the working class.

In her "The Objectivist Ethics," modern philosopher Ayn Rand defines a social parasite as a person who not only doesn't contribute to society but also weighs it down by breaking the rules of that society; for example, by stealing money you detract from the working majority of that society.

The text of The Internationale, the famous socialist song, later adopted as the hymn of the Soviet Union (from 1917 to 1941), in a number of languages contains lines that refer to parasites. For example, the Russian text reads:

Лишь мы, работники всемирной
Великой армии труда!
Владеть землёй имеем право,
Но паразиты - никогда!
Only we, the workers of the all-world
Great army of labor,
Have the right to own the land,
But parasites — never!

Concepts of parasitic social classes are not limited to the political Left. While the Left sees various kinds of elites who derive wealth through unearned means, such as the capital ownership class, as parasitic, the theories of various libertarian philosophers and free market economists from the political Right, such as Milton Friedman, have accused certain categories of unworking poor ("freeriders" or "freeloaders") of being social parasites; likewise, since the creation of welfare states in the mid 20th century, some free market advocates have accused welfare recipients of being parasites[How to reference and link to summary or text].


Parasite singles (パラサイトシングル, parasaito shinguru) is a Japanese expression for people who live with their parents until their late twenties or early thirties in order to enjoy a carefree and comfortable life.

Nazi Germany

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"60,000 Reichsmark is what this person suffering from hereditary defects costs the community during his lifetime. Fellow Germans, that is your money, too. Read 'New People', the monthly magazine of the Bureau for Race Politics of the Nazi Party."

In Nazi Germany, a propaganda campaign was launched to portray the mentally ill and disabled as parasites on society, as a part of the racial hygiene doctrine. (See the article on the T-4 Euthanasia Program for more.)

The Nazis also viewed Jews and other groups as subhuman or untermensch, often describing them as, or comparing them to, parasites, rats, or other vermin.

Soviet Union

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In the Soviet Union, which declared to be a workers' state, every adult able-bodied person was expected to work until official retirement. Thus unemployment was officially and theoretically eliminated; those who did not work, study or serve, risked being criminally charged with social parasitism (Russian: тунея́дство

) and declared an enemy of the people.

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, fire-keepers, etc.) which allowed them to continue their literary or research work.

The list of those arrested and charged with the crime of social parasitism contains notable names, such as the poet Joseph Brodsky, who was sentenced in 1964 to five years of banishment from Leningrad into Arkhangelsk Oblast. In 1987 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

See also


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