Following is an elaboration on D. G. B. Edelen's (1972-1973) nonlinear generalization of the classical Rayleigh-Onsager dissipation potentials and the implications for the models of viscoplasticity. A brief derivation is given via standard vector calculus of Edelen's potentials and the associated non-dissipative or "gyroscopic" forces and fluxes. It is also shown that certain extensions of Edelen's formulae can be obtained by means of a recently proposed source-flux relation or "inverse divergence," a generalization of the classical Gauss-Maxwell construct. The Legendre-Fenchel duality of Edelen's potentials is explored, with important consequences for rate-independent friction or plasticity. The use of dissipation potentials serves to facilitate the development of viscoplastic constitutive equations, a point illustrated here by the special cases of Stokesian fluid-particle suspensions and granular media. In particular, we consider inhomogeneous systems with particle migration coupled to gradients in particle concentration, strain rate, and fabric. Employing a mixture-theoretic treatment of Stokesian suspensions, one is able to identify particle stress as the work conjugate of the global deformation of the particle phase. However, in contrast to past treatments, this stress is not assumed to be a privileged driving force for particle migration. A comparison is made with models based on extremal dissipation or entropy production. It is shown that such models yield the correct dissipative components of force or flux but generally fail to capture certain non-dissipative, but mechanically relevant components. The significance of Edelen's gyroscopic forces and their relation to reactive constraints or other reversible couplings is touched upon. When gyroscopic terms are absent, one obtains a class of strongly dissipative or hyperdissipative materials whose quasi-static mechanics are governed by variational principles based on dissipation potential. This provides an interesting analog to elastostatic variational principles based on strain energy for hyperelastic materials and to the associated material instabilities arising from loss of convexity. © 2014 Springer-Verlag Wien.