Is reading Das Kapital worthwhile? I am interested in the backgrounds of Marxist theory but I have heard it is mostly irrelevant to modern Marxism
>painlessly as possible
Why are plebs obsessed with things being easy? Understanding the foundations of Marxism and classical economics is not going to be easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it. If you really want to know, invest time and effort. If you don't, stop pretending you do want to know about it.
>"Marxism still dominates ideology in China, but we can't just copy it from books. We must learn to apply it in practice. We can't expect that Karl Marx of 150 years ago would have known exactly what would be happening today. He didn't now anything of motor vehicles or the internet."
Contemporary Marxist research is almost wholly devoted to reconstructing Marx's varying, phased development of his Critique of Political Economy. To such an extent that classic texts like the German Ideology, the Manifesto, Paris Manuscripts and such are rather downplayed in favor of the Grundrisse, the 1861-1863 Manuscripts, the varying editions of Capital Vol. 1, and the process by which Volumes II and III were put together first by Marx, then by Engels.
English language academia just has the misfortune of being decades behind Italian, German, and Japanese scholarship. My professor a few years back blatantly taught the stage theory of the immature Marx as if the Grundrisse or his later in life studies never happened.
Read Capital. Read all of his "economic" material. Though don't think of it as an economic text as one would approach a modern textbook on economics. Capital is the "concept" under contemporary social formations, the ordering principle by which the different categories of existence derive their form and their function. To that extent, Capital as an evolving work represents Marx's attempt to understand the whole of human society, not just its "economics".
It's not. Just read a few introductory essays on Marx's relation to classic political economy from Michael Heinrich or Riccardo Belliofiore or David Harvey. Marx himself critiques the categories of classical political economy throughout the course of the three volumes and devotes Volume IV, Theories of Surplus Value, to a detailed critique of classic political economy.