Zoe Williams has kind of meta-analysis of reaction to the London (and now Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester) riots. She notes the ironies:
I think it's just about possible that you could see your actions refashioned into a noble cause if you were stealing the staples: bread, milk. But it can't be done while you're nicking trainers, let alone laptops.
She considers the authoritarian response that this is just "pure criminality" and the liberal view that it's just downtrodden people lashing out, but suggests a middle view: the riots arent directly political, but do need to be understand in the context of the prevailing political economy:
Between these poles is a more pragmatic reading: this is what happens when people don't have anything, when they have their noses constantly rubbed in stuff they can't afford, and they have no reason ever to believe that they will be able to afford it. Hiller takes up this idea: "Consumer society relies on your ability to participate in it. So what we recognise as a consumer now was born out of shorter hours, higher wages and the availability of credit. If you're dealing with a lot of people who don't have the last two, that contract doesn't work. They seem to be targeting the stores selling goods they would normally consume. So perhaps they're rebelling against the system that denies its bounty to them because they can't afford it."
The tragic mindlessness of smashing up shops so you can get their stuff is best criticised by this woman in Hackney.