Beck and others have proposed that in late modernity Western industrial sodeties are undergoing a process of tranformation into risk sodeties. The author of this article tends to agree, hut would like to draw attention to a concomitant cultural change. Whereas industrial society was no stranger to a risk culture, in risk society we are witnessing the development of a precautionaty culture. This article first outlines some major aspeds of this cultural transformation, providing the basis for a conceptual scheme of ideal types which distinguish between three types of public reacrions to damage and disgrace. Central in these ideal types are the (legal) concepts of guilt, risk and precaution. Second, the article offers a critique of the precautionary prindple, the legal concept of such crudal importance in the precautionary culture. A major conclusion is that if the precautionary principle can no longer be removed from the present day legal and political culture, it should at least be radically revised in order to remove some of its major shortcomings.