Critical and postcritical states of pseudo-conservative discrete structural systems are studied by means of a new formulation leading to a classification of critical states and to an approximate form of the postcritical equilibrium path. The nonlinear equilibrium equations are derived from the total potential energy function of a classical system, but with the addition of at least one control parameter. The follower force effect is thus included by nonlinear constraints to the equilibrium equation. The nonlinear equations are solved by perturbation techniques. Finally the theory is applied to investigate the instability of some simple mechanical models.

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