We Can Do Better

Ideas for Changing Society

By David Camfield  

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The view that capitalism is an inherently flawed, exploitative, crisis-prone, oppressive system is not new. But neoliberal capitalism’s flaws are increasingly dangerous in Western countries and globally as corporations exert growing influence on governments, as the endless pursuit of profits pushes our climate to the breaking point and as far-right politics dominate the media. Solutions are needed. Fast.

In We Can Do Better, David Camfield lays out a theoretical basis for political and social change that fuses critical Marxism with insights from anti-racist queer feminism. This reconstructed historical materialism treats capitalism and class as inextricably interwoven with gender, race and sexuality. After discussing today’s most influential social theories, Camfield uses this theory to analyze a range of issues that face our world today, including climate change, growing social insecurity and the persistence of sexism and racism. Camfield argues that the key to achieving change for the better is social struggle, and he offers ideas about moving from social theory to social action.

The best basis for political education in our times — one that is unlikely to be surpassed anytime soon.

— International Viewpoint

“With a new generation questioning capitalism and the social oppressions around us, there could not be a better time for David Camfield’s innovative case for a renewed historical materialism. Taking on some of the most important challenges to anti-capitalism, Camfield makes the case for a radical socialism that is anti-racist, feminist, pro-queer and ecological. In so doing, he powerfully demonstrates that historical materialism—if creatively applied—offers a compelling means to critically understand our world, the better to change it.”

— David McNally, York University

“This is a must read book for anyone who wants to understand the complex forces that shape our societies and change them.”

— Sara Farris, University of London, author of In the Name of Women’s Rights: The Rise of Femonationalism

“Clear, concise and well-argued, David Camfield’s We Can Do Better offers a powerful critique of our current system and provides hope for a better one. Aimed at newcomers, but rewarding to theoretically sophisticated readers, he relies on a reconstructed historical materialism that integrates the best of Marx and the most important insights of feminist and anti-racist analyses of capitalism, decisively refuting the standard counter-position of class and identity politics. Whether one agrees entirely or not, this is a stimulating contribution to theoretical debates regarding capitalism and strategic debates regarding how we can move beyond it.”

— Nancy Holmstrom, editor of The Socialist Feminist Project

“This valuable book offers a theoretical tool chest for radicals, grounded in activist learning from the past 150 years of struggle yet open to ongoing developments. The development of theory can sometimes be cast as an ivory tower pursuit, outside of, and irrelevant to, activist struggles. This book shows the power of radical theory rooted in activist knowledge in contributing to the development of effective approaches to the struggles of our times.”

— Alan Sears, Ryerson University, author of The Next New Left: A History of the Future

People who are inspired to change the world in the name of social justice need to cultivate an understanding of how the world works under capitalism. We are in a period of new movements emerging or re-emerging to combat sexism, racism, and myriad of other oppressions, and in the face of ecological crisis and reactionary right-wing movements, the stakes are high. As an introduction to social theory, this book will be especially useful to the activist who has questions about how seemingly separate causes are connected. This book will be a valuable tool in working together for the just society we deserve.”

— Suzanne MacNeil, President, Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council

  • Kindle
  • ISBN: 9781552669983
  • September 2017
  • $24.99
  • For sale worldwide
  • EPUB
  • ISBN: 9781552669976
  • September 2017
  • $24.99
  • For sale worldwide

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  • We Can Do Better is a highly relevant contribution which will hopefully prompt further discussion and help build broad struggles against the capitalist system.

    — Solidarity, February 2019 (full review)

  • Camfield’s foregrounding of the material constitution of oppression helps provide an alternative to reductionisms of all sorts, and ensure that today’s activists are equipped with the tools they need to interpret the world in order to change it.

    — Blind Field Journal, Feb. 2019 (full review)

  • Now, at last, David Camfield has produced a better primer for basic political education in our times. In a concise 132 pages of text, backed up by an extensive bibliography of recent works, he manages to touch on virtually all the issues that the revolutionary left faces today. Moreover, he achieves this in prose that avoids jargon and reaches out to generations for whom Marxist thinking is less familiar or compelling.

    — International Viewpoint, July 2018 (full review)

  • “This book does a lot of useful work and has the potential to spark a lot of useful conversations, and I hope it helps people on their journeys towards articulating alternatives to class-only and class-first understandings of the world and of struggles to change it.”

    — Scott Neigh, May 2019 (full review)

  • “By stressing collective agency as the driving force of history, Camfield’s reconstruction prepares the ground for a new politics of struggle from below in which class, race, and sex-gender are intertwined rather than set against one another. Camfield thus manages to develop a theory which coherently informs practice, and theorizes a practice that could plausibly produce the sorts of unified and global movements that progress towards socialism will require.”

    — Jeff Noonan, Oct. 2017 (full review)


  • Introduction
  • Ideal Explanations?
  • In Our Genes?
  • All About Markets?
  • Why Materialism Matters
  • How to Think about Societies
  • Understanding History: How Societies Change
  • Capitalism
  • Why Is Life Getting Harder for People in Rich Countries?
  • Why Is So Little Being Done about Climate Change?
  • Why Do Women Still Face Sexism?
  • Why Is Sex Still Political?
  • Why Does Racism Persist?
  • Why Isn’t There More Revolt?
  • Is Significant Change for the Better Possible?
  • Can We Do Better Than Capitalism?
  • What Are We Going to Do? From Theory to Action
  • Notes
  • Suggestions for Further Reading
  • Glossary
  • Acknowledgements
  • Index


  • David Camfield

    Associate Professor, University of Manitoba

    David Camfield teaches labour studies and sociology at the University of Manitoba and has been involved in social justice efforts since high school. He is the author of We Can Do Better: Ideas for Changing Society and Canadian Labour in Crisis: Reinventing the Workers’ Movement.

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