Picture a time-lapse photograph of the globe tracing the worldwide movement of kidneys, corneas, hearts, bone marrow, lungs, and babies. They all move inexorably from the poorest nations of the globe, and from the poorest classes within them, largely to the rich nations of the North Atlantic and the most privileged within them. Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal” was not far off the mark. Can anyone doubt that this trade in precious goods is an artifact of a huge and essentially coercive imbalance of life chances in the world, what some have called, entirely appropriately, in my view, “structural violence”?

I looked through several online dictionaries and found no definition which appears to match this particular usage of the word. Does anyone have any idea what it means?

  • It does not appear to be an appropriate choice. Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 9:04
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    The author seems to be straining for the meaning "something characteristic of or resulting from a particular human institution, period, trend, or individual", Merriam-Webster but I agree that it does not quite fit. Maybe 'result' or 'by-product' would be better. Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 9:06

1 Answer 1


Here, it means "product. Pay attention that an artifact is a product of man, and here it's been used figuratively to get the same meaning across to the reader.

The writer suggests that this trade is the product of an imbalance of life changes in the world.

  • Dictionary quotes and references are good on here. Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 10:07
  • @Michael Harvey Not everything can be found in dictionaries. In creative writing, certain things are to be inferred from the context. i.e. nowhere in the dictioonary does it say that artifact = product, but it is clear from the xontext that the writer has used the word in that way. Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 10:39

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