The conversation of the last chapter worries Levin. He realizes that the dissatisfaction he's been feeling with farming isn't just about him—it's something Russian farmers all over the country are feeling.
Levin has a long conversation with Sviyazhsky, in which he gets confused by what seems to be a series of contradictions.
Sviyazhsky tells Levin he doesn't know why Levin's so surprised at the peasants' resistance to new techniques and methods. After all, they are at such a low level of financial and moral development that anything foreign to them must seem scary.
Levin wants to know how they can educate the peasantry.
Schools, says Sviyazhsky. Schools may not make things better, they may in fact make the lives of the peasants worse. But at least schools will give the peasants different needs from the ones they have now.
Levin doesn't understand this point. How does it make any sense that new needs would be better than what they have now? Trying to educate the peasantry won't make them less irrational and superstitious, because the real cause of that irrationality is poverty. That's the root thing that must be eradicated first before people's lives can be made better.
Sviyazhsky replies pretty lamely that schools are compulsory all over Europe, so, implicitly, education should be done in Russia as well. He's afraid of Levin's arguments, and so he distracts him by changing the topic, laughing at an anecdote Levin has told to illustrate his point.
Levin realizes that Sviyazhsky has no interest in putting into practice any of the rationalist ideas he's thought up. All Sviyazhsky cares about is the process of reasoning, and he hates getting into conversational dead ends such as when Levin cornered him on education.
Sviyazhsky's thoughts on peasants and the way he treats them don't match up at all. After all, Sviyazhsky is great pals with a guy who believes that freeing the serfs is the worst thing that's ever happened to Russia.
Levin spends the night at Sviyazhsky's but can't sleep. He continues thinking about all the conversations he has had that day, starting with the rich peasant. He decides that farming works with these improvements only when the worker acts according to his habits. You've got to give the workers themselves an interest in what comes out of the farm. Levin's proposing an incentive system for agriculture.
At the end of much deliberation, Levin decides to return home early the next morning and propose a new scheme to the peasants.
He wants to revolutionize his entire system of farming.