We argue that for a large class of N=1 supersymmetric gauge theories the effective superpotential as a function of the glueball chiral superfield is exactly given by a summation of planar diagrams of the same gauge theory. This perturbative computation reduces to a matrix model whose action is the tree-level superpotential. For all models that can be embedded in string theory we give a proof of this result, and we sketch an argument how to derive this more generally directly in field theory. These results are obtained without assuming any conjectured dualities and can be used as a systematic method to compute instanton effects: the perturbative corrections up to n-th loop can be used to compute up to n-instanton corrections. These techniques allow us to see many non-perturbative effects, such as the Seiberg-Witten solutions of N=2 theories, the consequences of Montonen-Olive S-duality in N=1* and Seiberg-like dualities for N=1 theories from a completely perturbative planar point of view in the same gauge theory, without invoking a dual description.