Talk of Love: How Culture Matters. By Ann Swidler. University of Chicago Press, 289 pp., $30.00.

During your life, have you changed your view of what love is?" "Should people make sacrifices for those they love?" "Does love require some sort of intense, ecstatic experience?" These and similar questions were asked of 88 white, middle-class Silicon Valley Californians in the early '80s. Through hundreds of hours of interviews, sociologist Ann Swidler explored how people within a relatively homogeneous group make different uses of a common cultural repertoire. In the book that grew out of those interviews, she divides her emphasis roughly equally between the themes of her title and subtitle. Swidler especially helps us to understand why people think the way they do about love. Her book can help American Christians reflect on the extent to which their views on love and human nature resemble or differ from those of American culture as a whole.

Swidler, who teaches at the University of California at Berkeley and was one of the coauthors of Habits of the Heart, thinks of culture as a tool kit that provides people with action strategies as they face decisions and meet life's challenges. She contrasts her view with those of other sociologists. Clifford Geertz conceives of culture as a pervasive tint that influences people in an indirect, all-encompassing way. Max Weber thinks of culture as a collection of "switchmen"--ideas that influence actions by shaping people's goals and the means they use to reach them.