Part 3, Chapter 27 Summary
The farmer sitting across from Sviazhsky is not a rich man, but he is full of complaints. He is tired of farming but will never give it up; he is disgusted at the poor behavior and performance of the local peasants he hires, and he believes the local justice system is full of cheats and thieves. Sviazhsky is amused and tells the man that he, Levin, and other gentlemen are able to manage their lands quite nicely.
Levin listens to the second man’s argument that the Russian emancipation of peasants is what has ruined farming productivity. Under the serf system and with good management, the land yields nine to one; when crops are divided between farmer and serf, productivity drops and yields only three to one. Sviazhsky smiles ironically, as if he believes the man is crazy. However, Levin knows what the man said is true. Sviazhsky argues that the improved procedures and modern farming techniques should work just as well with hired labor as with serfs, but he is reminded that farmers have no power over hired workers—and they consistently mistreat and ill-use equipment and animals.
Levin argues that there is no way to farm rationally and make a meaningful profit given the current relationship between landowners and peasants. Sviazhsky does not believe it, contending that a lack of profitability is not the fault of serf labor but of a system of agriculture which does not invest in quality equipment and animals. Levin says he has devoted himself to having and using the best and most efficient farming equipment and techniques, but his land is still not particularly profitable and he is not content with the yields. Whenever he spends money on husbandry for his land, he has suffered a loss.
Levin asks Sviazhsky how he is able to make his lands pay using common laborers. Suddenly there is a look of alarm deep in Sviazhsky’s eyes. (Levin had heard Sviazhsky’s wife mention that they had hired someone to investigate the management and efficiency of their land, and he discovered they were operating at a loss of more than three thousand roubles each year.) Sviazhsky admits he may...
(The entire section is 545 words.)