Tms PAPER investigates the hypothesis that localization of deformation into a shear band may be considered a result of an instability in the constitutive description of homogeneous deformation. General conditions for a bifurcation, corresponding to the localization of deformation into a planar band, are derived. Although the analysis is general and applications to other localization phenomena are noted, the constitutive relations which are examined in application of the criterion for IocaIization are intended to model the behavior of brittle rock masses under compressive principal stresses. These relations are strongly pressure-sensitive since inelasticity results from frictional sliding on an array of fissures; the resulting inelastic response is dilatant, owing to uplift in sliding at asperities and to local tensile cracking from fissure tips. The appropriate constitutive descriptions involve non-normality of plastic strain increments to the yield hyper-surface. Also, it is argued that the subsequent yield surfaces will develop a vertex-like structure. Both of these features are shown to be destabilizing and to strongly influence the resulting predictions for localization by comparison to predictions based on classical plasticity idealizations, involving normality and smooth yield surfaces. These results seem widely applicable to discussions of the inception of rupture as a ~nstitutive instability.