An article at the John William Pope Center discusses independent scholars:
Whenever administrators cut costs, they typically do so at the expense of faculty. Universities hire adjuncts instead of tenure-track instructors, because they rarely receive benefits, have no contract, and earn as little as $18,000 a year. More than 40 percent of teaching staff at universities are now adjuncts… How are some scholars coping with this destructive system? By leaving it altogether. Margaret Hiley did this. She was a lecturer in literature in England but didn’t like the paperwork, teaching restrictions, and arbitrary university procedures. As a bilingual native speaker of English and German, the few enjoyable parts of her academic life were freelance translation.
Then she had an epiphany—why not buck the university system and go completely freelance?
Margaret contacted all her old clients and university colleagues. She put up a website and joined a professional association for translators. She took a course on self-employment. After a year of building up a client list, she quit her job as a lecturer. Margaret now has a near-endless number of projects from academic publishers and private scholars. She is able to charge £90 per 1,000 words of translation from German to English and earns far more than she ever did at a university.
She is part of a growing number of scholars who are taking their academic knowledge to the open market and profiting in ways unthinkable at a traditional university.
Comments: Independent scholarship has always existed, but usually as a small slice compared to the academy. As bad as the academy is, and I agree it is nasty for many, it does provide a stable platform for people to sit around and write 45 page articles on Chaucer. This is very, very hard to sustain outside the system. Also, on an emotional level, many would find it hard to sustain the interest outside the system. But I do agree that adjuncts are no so poorly paid that part time work outside the system is preferable and would be an adequate “day job” for many.