A place to begin...
If you are new to these ideas an excellent place to start would be with Ken Gergen's book 'An Invitation to Social Constructionism'. This book does not deal directly with relativism, but opens up a new way of thinking in terms of the social construction of the people, places and objects around us, which is an essential starting point for relativism. Even if you are comfortable with social constructionism this is still a book that I would recommend as it gives such a clear and engaging discussion.
The following video is Ken Gergen explaining some of the key ideas of social constructionism. Or, if you are itching to get started you can skip to the section on Relativism.
A key debate in social theory is that of realism vs relativism. Although this has been debated for many years, this issue is still debated in modern conferences and in current research.
Often relativism is only mentioned in social theory courses as something to be avoided or something which a 'good theory' would prevent. However, there are social theorists who happily work with relativism and make a strong case for its use. Debates about relativism often descend into trying to find a 'bottom line', or something which the relativist will accept is true or outside of construction. These debates happen so frequently that Derek Edwards, Malcolm Ashmore and Jonathan Potter wrote a paper which outlines the relativist side of argument. Two of the most common things which are discussed in realism-relativism debates are the existence of 'death' and 'furniture' (or physical objects such as rocks) as bottom line arguments against relativism. So often in these discussions would people bang tables to prove there existence, therefore this article takes on this BANG and unpicks this as an argument against relativism. 'The Death and Furniture Argument' is a seminal article in this field and it lays out the case for relativism and rebuts these ‘bottom line’ arguments.
You can download and read the full article here:
Edwards, D., Ashmore, M. and Potter J. (1995) ‘Death and Furniture: the rhetoric, politics and theology of bottom line arguments against relativism’, History of the Human Sciences, 8(2), 25-49.
In reading this article think about times that you have come across relativism. How was it talked about? Was it presented as a potential ontolological/epistemology position, or just something to be avoided?
Have you heard some of the arguments discussed in this paper? Or made some of them yourself? Does unpicking the rhetoric of these arguments (as this paper does) change your perception or understanding of them?
Even if you are not entirely convinced by these arguments, what would be the value or benefits of constructing truths as optional? Are there any difficult or problematic ideas within your research that it could be positive to change, remove or consider optional?