The destabilizing effect of linear viscous damping in a nonconservative elastic system is investigated by studying the roots of the characteristic equation in addition to the stability criteria and by introducing the concept of degree of instability. A generic relationship between critical loadings for no damping and for slight damping as well as vanishing damping is established. It is found that while the presence of small damping may have a destabilizing effect, proper interpretation of the limiting process of vanishing damping leads to the same critical load as for no damping.

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