This article uses the example of public sector outsourcing to explore how elite power can be fallible. A contract between the state and private companies represents a complex interweaving of different kinds of power with uncertain outcomes: the experience of outsourcing in the UK and elsewhere is that it frequently goes wrong, with fiascos creating political embarrassment for states and financial problems for companies. Drawing on Deleuze and Guattari, the article explores how the contract is a political device that can be both tool and weapon but which has uncertain outcomes. In doing so, it makes a distinctive contribution by arguing that elite work is often about repair and managing the political or financial consequences of failure.
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