In the introduction to A Life under Russian Serfdom, Boris Gorshkov writes that Purlevskii’s understanding of freedom is not only “as the ability to pursue one or another occupation but as liberation from serfdom”(2005,19). Gorshkov is arguing that Purlevskii’s story presents a crisis though the source of such is not purely economic. He says, “[d]espite serfdom’s capacity to facilitate economic development and accommodate many of the serfs’ needs, serfdom became increasingly viewed as a social and moral evil”(2005,18). Purlevskii himself wrote that when, in 1826, he had enough money to buy his freedom he did not, “whether because serfdom did not restrain the freedom of my commerce and my access to loans, or because I could not withdraw from my business activities the money necessary for buying my freedom, I can hardly say now”(Purlevskii 2005,97). In this way, Purlevskii himself seems to at least entertain the idea that his decision to remain in serfdom when presented with the option of liberation was based on economics, not because of his economic success but because of his economic dependency.
How do we understand Gorshkov’s seeming sidelining of the economy of serfdom as a repressive force?