"Yes, here he's written almost a book on the natural conditions
of the laborer in relation to the land," said Katavasov; "I'm not
a specialist, but I, as a natural science man, was pleased at
his not taking mankind as something outside biological laws; but,
on the contrary, seeing his dependence on his surroundings, and
in that dependence seeking the laws of his development."
"That's very interesting," said Metrov.
"What I began precisely was to write a book on agriculture; but
studying the chief instrument of agriculture, the laborer," said
Levin, reddening, "I could not help coming to quite unexpected
And Levin began carefully, as it were, feeling his ground, to
expound his views. He knew Metrov had written an article against
the generally accepted theory of political economy, but to what
extent he could reckon on his sympathy with his own new views he
did not know and could not guess from the clever and serene face
of the learned man.
"But in what do you see the special characteristics of the
Russian laborer?" said Metrov; "in his biological
characteristics, so to speak, or in the condition in which he is
Levin saw that there was an idea underlying this question with
which he did not agree. But he went on explaining his own idea
that the Russian laborer has a quite special view of the land,
different from that of other people; and to support this
proposition he made haste to add that in his opinion this
attitude of the Russian peasant was due to the consciousness of
his vocation to people vast unoccupied expanses in the East.
"One may easily be led into error in basing any conclusion on the
general vocation of a people," said Metrov, interrupting Levin.
"The condition of the laborer will always depend on his relation
to the land and to capital."
And without letting Levin finish explaining his idea, Metrov
began expounding to him the special point of his own theory.