**Original manuscript:** 1998/05/19
**Manuscript last revised:** 1999/09/22

By using a suitably general definition of a force, one may geometrically cast the Euler-Lagrange equations in a ``force balance'' form. The key ingredient in such a construction is the Euler-Lagrange 2-force which is a bundle map from the bundle of two-jets into the first contact system. This 2-force can be used as the basis for a geometric presentation of Lagrangian mechanics with external forces and constraints. Also described is the precise correspondence between this 2-force and the Poincaré-Cartan two-form.

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Last Updated: Fri Mar 15 08:08:35 2024