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Peer Capitalism: Parallel Relationships in the U.S. Economy1

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

We gain insight into the reasons why capitalists maintain social relationships with one another by analyzing a largely unexamined type of relationship—that which links “parallel peers” or noncompeting enterprises in the same industry—and an institution—the industry peer network or IPN—that is specifically designed for supporting small, exclusive groups of parallel peers. A wide array of qualitative and quantitative data show parallel relationships in general, and IPNs in particular, to be surprisingly prevalent, especially in light of the focus of past research on horizontal and vertical relationships and institutions. In addition, analysis of parallel relationships and the institutions that cultivate them sheds light on key mechanisms by which capitalist enterprises learn from one another and motivate one another to achieve higher performance.