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said to myself, that I had so divided labor, that writing, that is to
say, intellectual labor, is my special employment, and the other matters
which were necessary to me I had left free (or relegated, rather) to
others. But this, which would appear to have been the most advantageous
arrangement for intellectual toil, was precisely the most disadvantageous
to mental labor, not to mention its injustice.

All my life long, I have regulated my whole life, food, sleep, diversion,
in view of these hours of special labor, and I have done nothing except
this work. The result of this has been, in the first place, that I have
contracted my sphere of observations and knowledge, and have frequently
had no means for the study even of problems which often presented
themselves in describing the life of the people (for the life of the
common people is the every-day problem of intellectual activity). I was
conscious of my ignorance, and was obliged to obtain instruction, to ask
about things which are known by every man not engaged in special labor.
In the second place, the result was, that I had been in the habit of
sitting down to write when I had no inward impulse to write, and when no
one demanded from me writing, as writing, that is to say, my thoughts,
but when my name was merely wanted for journalistic speculation. I tried
to squeeze out of myself what I could. Sometimes I could extract
nothing; sometimes it was very wretched stuff, and I was dissatisfied and
grieved. But now that I have learned the indispensability of physical
labor, both hard and artisan labor, the result is entirely different. My
time has been occupied, however modestly, at least usefully and
cheerfully, and in a manner instructive to me. And therefore I have torn
myself from that indubitably useful and cheerful occupation for my
special duties only when I felt an inward impulse, and when I saw a
demand made upon me directly for my literary work.

And these demands called into play only good nature, and therefore the
usefulness and the joy of my special labor. Thus it turned out, that
employment in those physical labors which are indispensable to me, as
they are to every man, not only did not interfere with my special
activity, but was an indispensable condition of the usefulness, worth,
and cheerfulness of that activity.

The bird is so constructed, that it is indispensable that it should fly,
walk, peek, combine; and when it does all this, it is satisfied and
happy, - then it is a bird. Just so man, when he walks, turns, raises,
drags, works with his fingers, with his eyes, with his ears, with his
tongue, with his brain, - only then is he satisfied, only then is he a

A man who acknowledges his appointment to labor will naturally strive
towards that rotation of labor which is peculiar to him, for the
satisfaction of his inward requirements; and he can alter this labor in
no other way than when he feels within himself an irresistible summons to
some exclusive form of labor, and when the demands of other men for that
labor are expressed.

The character of labor is such, that the satisfaction of all a man's
requirements demands that same succession of the sorts of work which
renders work not a burden but a joy. Only a false creed, [Greek text
which cannot be reproduced], to the effect that labor is a curse, could
have led men to rid themselves of certain kinds of work; i.e., to the
appropriation of the work of others, demanding the forced occupation with
special labor of other people, which they call division of labor.

We have only grown used to our false comprehension of the regulation of
labor, because it seems to us that the shoemaker, the machinist, the
writer, or the musician will be better off if he gets rid of the labor
peculiar to man. Where there is no force exercised over the labor of
others, or any false belief in the joy of idleness, not a single man will
get rid of physical labor, necessary for the satisfaction of his
requirements, for the sake of special work; because special work is not a
privilege, but a sacrifice which man offers to inward pressure and to his

The shoemaker in the country, who abandons his wonted labor in the field,
which is so grateful to him, and betakes himself to his trade, in order
to repair or make boots for his neighbors, always deprives himself of the
pleasant toil of the field, simply because he likes to make boots,
because he knows that no one else can do it so well as he, and that
people will be grateful to him for it; but the desire cannot occur to
him, to deprive himself, for the whole period of his life, of the
cheering rotation of labor.

It is the same with the _starosta_ [village elder], the machinist, the
writer, the learned man. To us, with our corrupt conception of things,
it seems, that if a steward has been relegated to the position of a
peasant by his master, or if a minister has been sent to the colonies, he
has been chastised, he has been ill-treated. But in reality a benefit
has been conferred on him; that is to say, his special, hard labor has
been changed into a cheerful rotation of labor. In a naturally
constituted society, this is quite otherwise. I know of one community
where the people supported themselves. One of the members of this
society was better educated than the rest; and they called upon him to
read, so that he was obliged to prepare himself during the day, in order
that he might read in the evening. This he did gladly, feeling that he
was useful to others, and that he was performing a good deed. But he
grew weary of exclusively intellectual work, and his health suffered from
it. The members of the community took pity on him, and requested him to
go to work in the fields.

For men who regard labor as the substance and the joy of life, the basis,
the foundation of life will always be the struggle with nature, - labor
both agricultural and mechanical, and intellectual, and the establishment
of communion between men. Departure from one or from many of these
varieties of labor, and the adoption of special labor, will then only
occur when the man possessed of a special branch, and loving this work,
and knowing that he can perform it better than others, sacrifices his own
profit for the satisfaction of the direct demands made upon him. Only on
condition of such a view of labor, and of the natural division of labor
arising from it, is that curse which is laid upon our idea of labor
abrogated, and does every sort of work becomes always a joy; because a
man will either perform that labor which is undoubtedly useful and
joyous, and not dull, or he will possess the consciousness of
self-abnegation in the fulfilment of more difficult and restricted toil,
which he exercises for the good of others.

But the division of labor is more profitable. More profitable for whom?
It is more profitable in making the greatest possible quantity of calico,
and boots in the shortest possible time. But who will make these boots
and this calico? There are people who, for whole generations, make only
the heads of pins. Then how can this be more profitable for men? If the
point lies in manufacturing as much calico and as many pins as possible,
then this is so. But the point concerns men and their welfare. And the
welfare of men lies in life. And life is work. How, then, can the
necessity for burdensome, oppressive toil be more profitable for people?
For all men, that one thing is more profitable which I desire for
myself, - the utmost well-being, and the gratification of all those
requirements, both bodily and spiritual, of the conscience and of the
reason, which are imposed upon me. And in my own case I have found, that
for my own welfare, and for the satisfaction of these needs of mine, all
that I require is to cure myself of that folly in which I had been
living, in company with the Krapivensky madman, and which consisted in
presupposing that some people need not work, and that certain other
people should direct all this, and that I should therefore do only that
which is natural to man, i.e., labor for the satisfaction of their
requirements; and, having discovered this, I convinced myself that labor
for the satisfaction of one's own needs falls of itself into various
kinds of labor, each one of which possesses its own charm, and which not
only do not constitute a burden, but which serve as a respite to one
another. I have made a rough division of this labor (not insisting on
the justice of this arrangement), in accordance with my own needs in
life, into four parts, corresponding to the four stints of labor of which
the day is composed; and I seek in this manner to satisfy my

These, then, are the answers which I have found for myself to the
question, "What is to be done?"

_First_, Not to lie to myself, however far removed my path in life may be
from the true path which my reason discloses to me.

_Second_, To renounce my consciousness of my own righteousness, my
superiority especially over other people; and to acknowledge my guilt.

_Third_, To comply with that eternal and indubitable law of humanity, - the
labor of my whole being, feeling no shame at any sort of work; to contend
with nature for the maintenance of my own life and the lives of others.


I concluded, after having said every thing that concerned myself; but I
cannot refrain, from a desire to say something more which concerns
everybody, from verifying the deductions which I have drawn, by
comparisons. I wish to say why it seems to me that a very large number
of our social class ought to come to the same thing to which I have come;
and also to state what will be the result if a number of people should
come to the same conclusion.

I think that many will come to the point which I have attained: because
if the people of our sphere, of our caste, will only take a serious look
at themselves, then young persons, who are in search of personnel
happiness, will stand aghast at the ever-increasing wretchedness of their
life, which is plainly leading them to destruction; conscientious people
will be shocked at the cruelty and the illegality of their life; and
timid people will be terrified by the danger of their mode of life.

_The Wretchedness of our Life_: - However much we rich people may reform,
however much we may bolster up this delusive life of ours with the aid of
our science and art, this life will become, with every year, both weaker
and more diseased; with every year the number of suicides, and the
refusals to bear children, will increase; with every year we shall feel
the growing sadness of our life; with every generation, the new
generations of people of this sphere of society will become more puny.

It is obvious that in this path of the augmentation of the comforts and
the pleasures of life, in the path of every sort of cure, and of
artificial preparations for the improvements of the sight, the hearing,
the appetite, false teeth, false hair, respiration, massage, and so on,
there can be no salvation. That people who do not make use of these
perfected preparations are stronger and healthier, has become such a
truism, that advertisements are printed in the newspapers of
stomach-powders for the wealthy, under the heading, "Blessings for the
poor," {252} in which it is stated that only the poor are possessed of
proper digestive powers, and that the rich require assistance, and, among
other various sorts of assistance, these powders. It is impossible to
set the matter right by any diversions, comforts, and powders, whatever;
only a change of life can rectify it.

_The Inconsistency of our Life with our Conscience_: - however we may seek
to justify our betrayal of humanity to ourselves, all our justifications
will crumble into dust in the presence of the evidence. All around us,
people are dying of excessive labor and of privation; we ruin the labor
of others, the food and clothing which are indispensable to them, merely
with the object of procuring diversion and variety for our wearisome
lives. And, therefore, the conscience of a man of our circle, if even a
spark of it be left in him, cannot be lulled to sleep, and it poisons all
these comforts and those pleasures of life which our brethren, suffering
and perishing in their toil, procure for us. But not only does every
conscientious man feel this himself, - he would be glad to forget it, but
this he cannot do.

The new, ephemeral justifications of science for science, of art for art,
do not exclude the light of a simple, healthy judgment. The conscience
of man cannot be quieted by fresh devices; and it can only be calmed by a
change of life, for which and in which no justification will be required.

Two causes prove to the people of the wealthy classes the necessity for a
change of life: the requirements of their individual welfare, and of the
welfare of those most nearly connected with them, which cannot be
satisfied in the path in which they now stand; and the necessity of
satisfying the voice of conscience, the impossibility of accomplishing
which is obvious in their present course. These causes, taken together,
should lead people of the wealthy classes to alter their mode of life, to
such a change as shall satisfy their well-being and their conscience.

And there is only one such change possible: they must cease to deceive,
they must repent, they must acknowledge that labor is not a curse, but
the glad business of life. "But what will be the result if I do toil for
ten, or eight, or five hours at physical work, which thousands of
peasants will gladly perform for the money which I possess?" people say
to this.

The first, simplest, and indubitable result will be, that you will become
a more cheerful, a healthier, a more alert, and a better man, and that
you will learn to know the real life, from which you have hidden
yourself, or which has been hidden from you.

The second result will be, that, if you possess a conscience, it will not
only cease to suffer as it now suffers when it gazes upon the toil of
others, the significance of which we, through ignorance, either always
exaggerate or depreciate, but you will constantly experience a glad
consciousness that, with every day, you are doing more and more to
satisfy the demands of your conscience, and you will escape from that
fearful position of such an accumulation of evil heaped upon your life
that there exists no possibility of doing good to people; you will
experience the joy of living in freedom, with the possibility of good;
you will break a window, - an opening into the domain of the moral world
which has been closed to you.

"But this is absurd," people usually say to you, for people of our
sphere, with profound problems standing before us, - problems
philosophical, scientific, artistic, ecclesiastical and social. It would
be absurd for us ministers, senators, academicians professors, artists, a
quarter of an hour of whose time is so prized by people, to waste our
time on any thing of that sort, would it not? - on the cleaning of our
boots, the washing of our shirts, in hoeing, in planting potatoes, or in
feeding our chickens and our cows, and so on; in those things which are
gladly done for us, not only by our porter or our cook, but by thousands
of people who value our time?

But why should we dress ourselves, wash and comb our hair? why should we
hand chairs to ladies, to guests? why should we open and shut doors, hand
ladies, into carriages, and do a hundred other things which serfs
formerly did for us? Because we think that it is necessary so to do;
that human dignity demands it; that it is the duty, the obligation, of

And the same is the case with physical labor. The dignity of man, his
sacred duty and obligation, consists in using the hands and feet which
have been given to him, for that for which they were given to him, and
that which consumes food on the labor which produces that food; and that
they should be used, not on that which shall cause them to pine away, not
as objects to wash and clean, and merely for the purpose of stuffing into
one's mouth food, drink, and cigarettes. This is the significance that
physical labor possesses for man in every community; but in our
community, where the avoidance of this law of labor has occasioned the
unhappiness of a whole class of people, employment in physical labor
acquires still another significance, - the significance of a sermon, and
of an occupation which removes a terrible misfortune that is threatening

To say that physical labor is an insignificant occupation for a man of
education, is equivalent to saying, in connection with the erection of a
temple: "What does it matter whether one stone is laid accurately in its
place?" Surely, it is precisely under conditions of modesty, simplicity,
and imperceptibleness, that every magnificent thing is accomplished; it
is impossible to plough, to build, to pasture cattle, or even to think,
amid glare, thunder, and illumination. Grand and genuine deeds are
always simple and modest. And such is the grandest of all deeds which we
have to deal with, - the reconciliation of those fearful contradictions
amid which we are living. And the deeds which will reconcile these
contradictions are those modest, imperceptible, apparently ridiculous
ones, the serving one's self, physical labor for one's self, and, if
possible, for others also, which we rich people must do, if we understand
the wretchedness, the unscrupulousness, and the danger of the position
into which we have drifted.

What will be the result if I, or some other man, or a handful of men, do
not despise physical labor, but regard it as indispensable to our
happiness and to the appeasement of our conscience? This will be the
result, that there will be one man, two men, or a handful of men, who,
coming into conflict with no one, without governmental or revolutionary
violence, will decide for ourselves the terrible question which stands
before all the world, and which sets people at variance, and that we
shall settle it in such wise that life will be better to them, that their
conscience will be more at peace, and that they will have nothing to
fear; the result will be, that other people will see that the happiness
which they are seeking everywhere, lies there around them; that the
apparently unreconcilable contradictions of conscience and of the
constitution of this world will be reconciled in the easiest and most
joyful manner; and that, instead of fearing the people who surround us,
it will become necessary for us to draw near to them and to love them.

The apparently insoluble economical and social problem is merely the
problem of Kriloff's casket. {256} The casket will simply open. And it
will not open, so long as people do not do simply that first and simple
thing - open it.

A man sets up what he imagines to be his own peculiar library, his own
private picture-gallery, his own apartments and clothing, he accumulates
his own money in order therewith to purchase every thing that he needs;
and the end of it all is, that engaged with this fancied property of his,
as though it were real, he utterly loses his sense of that which actually
constitutes his property, on which he can really labor, which can really
serve him, and which will always remain in his power, and of that which
is not and cannot be his own property, whatever he may call it, and which
cannot serve as the object of his occupation.

Words always possess a clear significance until we deliberately attribute
to them a false sense.

What does property signify?

Property signifies that which has been given to me, which belongs to me
exclusively; that with which I can always do any thing I like; that which
no one can take away from me; that which will remain mine to the end of
my life, and precisely that which I am bound to use, increase, and
improve. Now, there exists but one such piece of property for any
man, - himself.

Hence it results that half a score of men may till the soil, hew wood,
and make shoes, not from necessity, but in consequence of an
acknowledgment of the fact that man should work, and that the more he
works the better it will be for him. It results, that half a score of
men, - or even one man, may demonstrate to people, both by his confession
and by his actions, that the terrible evil from which they are suffering
is not a law of fate, the will of God, or any historical necessity; but
that it is merely a superstition, which is not in the least powerful or
terrible, but weak and insignificant, in which we must simply cease to
believe, as in idols, in order to rid ourselves of it, and in order to
rend it like a paltry spider's web. Men who will labor to fulfil the
glad law of their existence, that is to say, those who work in order to
fulfil the law of toil, will rid themselves of that frightful
superstition of property for themselves.

If the life of a man is filled with toil, and if he knows the delights of
rest, he requires no chambers, furniture, and rich and varied clothing;
he requires less costly food; he needs no means of locomotion, or of
diversion. But the principal thing is, that the man who regards labor as
the business and the joy of his life will not seek that relief from his
labor which the labors of others might afford him. The man who regards
life as a matter of labor will propose to himself as his object, in
proportion as he acquires understanding, skill, and endurance, greater
and greater toil, which shall constantly fill his life to a greater and
greater degree. For such a man, who sees the meaning of his life in work
itself, and not in its results, for the acquisition of property, there
can be no question as to the implements of labor. Although such a man
will always select the most suitable implements, that man will receive
the same satisfaction from work and rest, when he employs the most
unsuitable implements. If there be a steam-plough, he will use it; if
there is none, he will till the soil with a horse-plough, and, if there
is none, with a primitive curved bit of wood shod with iron, or he will
use a rake; and, under all conditions, he will equally attain his object.
He will pass his life in work that is useful to men, and he will
therefore win complete satisfaction.

And the position of such a man, both in his external and internal
conditions, will be more happy than that of the man who devotes his life
to the acquisition of property. Such a man will never suffer need in his
outward circumstances, because people, perceiving his desire to work,
will always try to provide him with the most productive work, as they
proportion a mill to the water-power. And they will render his material
existence free from care, which they will not do for people who are
striving to acquire property. And freedom from anxiety in his material
conditions is all that a man needs. Such a man will always be happier in
his internal conditions, than the one who seeks wealth, because the first
will never gain that which he is striving for, while the latter always
will, in proportion to his powers. The feeble, the aged, the dying,
according to the proverb, "With the written absolution in his hands,"
will receive full satisfaction, and the love and sympathy of men.

What, then, will be the outcome of a few eccentric individuals, or
madmen, tilling the soil, making shoes, and so on, instead of smoking
cigarettes, playing whist, and roaming about everywhere to relieve their
tedium, during the space of the ten leisure hours a day which every
intellectual worker enjoys? This will be the outcome: that these madmen
will show in action, that that imaginary property for which men suffer,
and for which they torment themselves and others, is not necessary for
happiness; that it is oppressive, and that it is mere superstition; that
property, true property, consists only in one's own head and hands; and
that, in order to actually exploit this real property with profit and
pleasure, it is necessary to reject the false conception of property
outside one's own body, upon which we expend the best efforts of our
lives. The outcome us, that these men will show, that only when a man
ceases to believe in imaginary property, only when he brings into play
his real property, his capacities, his body, so that they will yield him
fruit a hundred-fold, and happiness of which we have no idea, - only then
will he be so strong, useful, and good a man, that, wherever you may
fling him, he will always land on his feet; that he will everywhere and

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