Later, Levin starts up the discussion of peasant reforms again with Sviyazhsky. Sviyazhsky says he doesn’t know why Levin is surprised at the peasants’ resistance to innovation, since the peasants need to be educated. Schools, says Sviyazhsky, might be terrible, but they will give the peasants different needs than they have now. But when Levin makes a practical argument against schools, Sviyazhsky backs away: he is only interested in hypothetical reasoning, not in following through with any of his ideas.
Sviyazhsky puzzles Levin because he says one thing and does something completely different, whereas Levin is a terrible prevaricator: if Levin feels something, he cannot tell a lie, and his actions always align with his thoughts, even if this isn’t the most politically savvy way to proceed. Put another way, Levin’s inside feelings and outside appearance and actions always align. Anna is similar, and part of the tragedy of the novel is that Russian society punishes Anna for it.
That night, as Levin tosses and turns, he realizes that farming only works when the peasants are incentivized to work for their own good, and he determines to overturn all his own management.
Levin realizes that people will only want to work when they are working for themselves and their own good, not for some ideals or the theoretical benefit of others. This realization is echoed much later in the novel, when he finds spirituality.