In 1949 (aged 19) he won an academic year in Oregon by the U.S. Embassy in Austria with an essay titled »The world we want to live in« and stayed there ever since. First, he made his living as a dishwasher, prizefighter, assembly line worker and dock worker. Later, he wrote plays and lived almost 2 years self-sustaining on a farm in New Hampshire. He studied philosophy at Princeton University, received his doctorate with a thesis on Hegel and was teaching at Princeton, Stanford, Chicago and Berkeley.
Since 1958 he has been Professor of Philosophy, and later Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In 1999 he became professor emeritus. He is also a guest lecturer at the University of Kassel.
In the years 1976 to 1979 he travelled to the former Eastern Bloc countries. There he realized that communism has no future. His confrontation with capitalism emerged and the idea to develop an alternative model, the movement of the New Work / New Work.
In 1984, Bergmann founded an organisation called the Center for New Work in Flint, Michigan, to help the many unemployed people after General Motors closed several plants there. Since then, several such centers in different countries have emerged. He is also the author of publications on economic, political and cultural issues and advises governments, companies, unions and communities, young people and street people in the future of work and innovation. Much of his work has to do with children and adolescents. He represents his thesis in the U.S. and Europe, but also in third world countries.