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Cambridge Free Shop

manos relaying | 05.09.2004 08:26 | Free Spaces | Cambridge

On Saturday 4th September, some people from the Cambridge Action Network set up a 'free shop' in Cambridge market square. Anyone could give or take stuff, yet the most important rule was: no money exchange.

What is a Free Shop?

“When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?” – Allen Ginsberg
Come along and get stuff for free
Bring things to give away
No money: this is not capitalism

We’re giving it all away. Books, food, music, clothes, furniture; things we no longer need or no longer want, recycled and circulated to any of you who need or want them. And don’t you have things you no longer want, which could be used by someone else? We hope so, and we hope you’ll bring them along to share at the free shop. Because we live in a world of great wealth and great waste: we throw out products when we get bored of them, and straight away go out and by new commodities; supermarkets dump unsold fruit and vegetables while they try and persuade us to buy more and more complicatedly processed foods. In this situation, a free shop shouldn’t be unusual, it should be normal.

In a world of surplus, why do we still spend all our time paying for things? Exchanging money for goods is not a natural necessity, nor is it simply an efficient method of distribution: it’s about power and control. Every time we go in to a shop and interact with someone as just a shop assistant or just a cashier, we reproduce a whole system in which people are not able to interact as people, but in roles determined by money: as buyer and seller, rich and poor, owner and worker. Consumption isn’t a private act, it’s an integral part of a system that controls our access to resources to control our actions and our lives. We can see this system all around us, in the smile that persuades us we’re buying more than just a cup of coffee or the ads that persuade us that we need to be healthier (eat more), more popular (wear more); more human (buy more). The economic relations that start in the shopping centre spread out to determine more and more of our lives.

This is what the free shop stands against. Distributing goods outside of the money system is a small act of social disobedience, a disruption of the image of inevitability that we see every time we walk into a shop and think we have to buy the things we want or need. Come to the free shop and take stuff, come and bring stuff, or just come and talk to us. And maybe, as you walk around the shopping centres of our city, you’ll think: shouldn’t these all be free shops?

manos relaying


Display the following 9 comments

  1. The Oldest Form of Trade - It Still Works! — Ye Olde Shoppe Assisystante
  2. Camlets — Ye Olde Shoppe Assisystante (agayne)
  3. Free Shop Logo (Colour Version) — In the C.A.N.
  4. Another Version — Free Love? I don't think so!
  5. Pedantic, perhaps but.. — Anita
  6. Capitalism Works — Brian
  7. Sure - capitalism works - but for what? — Eno
  8. Communism Brian? — alex
  9. Communism??? — Dan E.