If Marxists claim that useful labor is the source of a commodities value then would a commodity that has an expiration date, strawberries for example have as much value when they turn rotten as when they are fresh?

  • I think your reading of Marx is too literal. I see sense in a lot of things Marx said... But I've always wondered why computer CPU's are so cheap. Have you ever looked at one under a microscope.. have you any idea how much labour is involved? Yet... I'm glad that free market economics commoditised them. On the flip side.. I'm not really sure why a song that took the author a few weeks to produce should make them exorbitantly wealthy. On this subject Marx had a lot to say..
    – Richard
    Sep 30, 2018 at 20:55
  • generally marx has a lot more to say about the depreciation of the means of production (we have to buy a new stocking frame)
    – user38026
    Apr 27, 2019 at 3:22
  • @another_name, value to whom? The rotten strawberries have certainly been vested with the same amount of labour as fresh ones - allowing them to rot, or producing things that rot very quickly, may go to the question of the social usefulness of that labour in the first place. Also, the existence of forces that may destroy value - whether through human action or passive natural process - are not ruled out.
    – Steve
    May 28, 2019 at 11:59

3 Answers 3


The fact that value can deteriorate doesn't change the fact that — for Marx — labor is still the source of value. Unless someone puts labor into planting, growing, and harvesting strawberries, there will be no strawberries, and thus no value that can be derived from strawberries. By contrast, if strawberries sit on the shelf too long and become inedible, that is merely labor value that is wasted: labor that is expended without producing value.

In most production contexts, wasted labor is wrapped into the final value of the object. In other words, if a farmer knows that 10% of his crop will be unsaleable for one reason or another, he will price the crop in such a way to offset that wasted labor; or if he cannot, he will produce a different crop. Most production contexts do their best to minimize wasted labor — there are significant academic fields of study dealing with workplace efficiency and human resource management — but that issue wasn't of primary concern for Marx. Marx was more troubled by the way in which companies extract excess labor value: constructing wage systems which ensure those who do the labor of production get only a fraction of the value their labor produces.


I think most would find that the value diminishes over time. Also, the value of say a foot treadle sewing machine became less with the advent of the electric sewing machine. Assigning value based on effort solely is not part of Marxism, however. Marx wrote that the effort should be the primary factor in figuring value, not the only one.

  • Well, (economical and any physical) value exists only in comparison. So, what we can actually say is that a foot treadle sewing machine just less valuable than an electric one.
    – rus9384
    Sep 28, 2018 at 17:36
  • And exists only in relation to a person doing the value assessment. Massive labor can add zero value for any given person's valuation, or even take away. Labor can't add value to anything unless it does so in the judgment of a person who values how that labor transforms that thing. Nov 27, 2018 at 19:07
  • I am unclear why value would have to be a comparison. Nov 27, 2018 at 21:17
  • Value as an abstract is based on the person doing the value assessment. This type of value can vary wildly from person to person and from time to time. Whether there is objective value is a different question than the one posted here. Nov 27, 2018 at 21:19
  • i downvoted cos you don't cite anyone and uh i think you're wrong tbh (but am not sure)
    – user38026
    Apr 27, 2019 at 3:56

This is more of an economic theory question, however it has interesting implications about the relevance of concepts.

In the begining of Das Kapital Marx is interested in defining what creates value. His objective is to show that the investment of workforce is what creates value, in order to make a case for the idea that it is the workers ("proletarians") who create value and not the capitalists.

The mecanisms of how value gets depleted is out of his scope for this purpose.

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