Whilst the focus on the quality of parenting and the nature of family life might suggest some common ground with other viewpoints, the position based on principles of supporting families (‘defence of the birth family’, in Fox Harding’s terms ) takes a much more positive view of the state’s potential role in promoting and supporting the family in meeting children’s needs. This originates in a distinctive view of the state itself, which emphasises its capacity to facilitate social functioning and improve the quality of life in general. The state is seen as a benign force, being proactive, enabling and egalitarian. These assumptions are associated with the ideas and policies which gave rise to the welfare state, and particularly its more ambitious manifestations. George and Wilding (1994), for example, make the connection between the development of the welfare state and ‘democratic socialism’. This, in turn, is characterised by a set of core principles including universalism, redistribution of wealth, altruism and social integration. As they put it: ‘Equality, liberty and fraternity have been its underlying values…’ (George and Wilding, 1994, p. 97). This perspective is distinguished carefully from more radical positions, being associated with the aim of ameliorating rather than replacing existing social structures. As Clarke and his colleagues have put it, the aim is to achieve ‘fairer distribution’ rather than ‘challenging capitalism as an economic system’ (Clarke et al., 1987, p. 176).
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